President Trump is using new schemes to prevent a November election—this time against a beloved public institution: the U.S. Postal Service.
Trump has openly admitted to starving USPS of adequate funding—in an interview with Fox, Trump said: “[Democrats] can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.” His strategy, then, is to attempt to overwhelm the organization enough to make it nearly impossible for it to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.
While the attacks on the service seem to be escalating, the conflict surrounding the popular USPS really ramped up in June when Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor, became postmaster general. Causing intense bipartisan backlash, DeJoy has implemented extreme cost-cutting measures to the organization—such as cutting back on overtime, reorganizing the top ranks and calling for late-arriving mail to be delivered the following day.
Moreover, without any official explanation, the Post Office is shutting down mail sorting machines—the same machines that sort ballots on Election Day, causing many to fear that late-cast votes may not be counted.
Trump’s baseless hatred for the Postal Service—which he calls “a loser”—stems from the 2016 elections: He blames his loss of the popular vote against Clinton on mail-in ballot fraud, an unproven conspiracy theory. Trump also blames Jeff Bezos’s wealth on Amazon “ripping off” the Postal Service—another false claim. (In fact, it seems the person actually “ripping off” USPS is the president himself.)
The politicized effort to destroy the Postal Service in an election year has confused and worried many—considering 91 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the USPS, making it the single most popular U.S. institution.
Luckily, lawmakers in the House and the Senate, as well as two coalitions of at least 21 state attorneys general, are fighting back. And the pressure seems to be working.
Trump’s Motivation to Dismantle the Postal Service
Of course, the Trump administration sees an attack on the Postal Service as a move to thwart opponents in the 2020 presidential election: “[Democrats] need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said.
According to ABC:
Democrats have pushed for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the COVID-19 response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, is down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.
Trump and DeJoy’s war on USPS is putting congressional Republicans in a tough spot, especially those up for reelection in November. Some are attempting to distance themselves from Trump’s actions—like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said, “I don’t share the concerns that the president … has mentioned.” Others, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), are falling in line behind Trump.
Either way, the attacks against the institution are unprecedented, says Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. He and other long-term USPS workers “haven’t seen anything this bad.”
“What we’ve seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting,” said former President Barack Obama. “What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the postal service to encourage voting and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.'”
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How Does This Impact the Election?
“We need a well-functioning Post Office in all circumstances, but especially when we are trying to conduct an election that provides voters choices so they don’t have to choose between their fundamental right to vote and their safety,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center. “Mail balloting is understood by all experts to be part of that solution, and that means the Post Office needs to have the resources to serve everyone in an equitable way.”
And swing states are particularly at risk. For example, in Pennsylvania, the Postal Service warned that some mail-in ballots might not be delivered on time—which means Trump may get his wish in preventing accurate results for the election.
“Ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them,” said Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service.
Congress Fights Back to Defend USPS
Amid Trump’s attacks on the organization, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday she will call the chamber back into session to vote on a bill that includes a $25 billion USPS infusion and a provision to prohibit the postal service from making operational changes.
The bill, The Delivering for America Act, was introduced by House Oversight and Reform chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
Additionally, Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify on Monday, Aug. 24, before the Oversight Committee to answer tough questions about the major changes implemented since he took the reigns at USPS.
“I think it’s really important for the American people to know this: When they talk about the Postal Service, they say ‘Oh, they’re losing money, we have to make this, this and this.’ That’s not the point. It’s not a business. It’s a service,” said Pelosi.
State Attorneys General Join the Fray
Additionally, this week at least 21 states will file lawsuits against the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster DeJoy—with more likely on the way.
The lawsuits—part of a coalition of state attorneys general, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro—name Trump, the Postal Service and DeJoy as defendants, accusing the Trump administration’s attacks on mail balloting as an overstep of states’ power to administer their own elections.
For now, the lawsuits are backed only by states represented by Democratic attorneys general—but Pennsylvania AG Shapiro said he soon expects Republican attorneys general to join the litigation efforts.
And the public pressure seems to be working—on Tuesday, DeJoy announced his decision to walk back many of the proposed reforms “until after the election is concluded.”
“They felt the heat,” Pelosi said. “And that’s what we were trying to do, to make it too hot for them to handle.”
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