Trump & DeJoy’s Assault On The USPS, Explained
Since the pandemic began, President Trump has increasingly railed against the use of mailed ballots. Despite choosing (on multiple occasions) to vote by mail himself, Trump has falsely called mail-in voting “terrible”, “corrupt”, “dangerous”, and for “cheaters”. It is now clear that his discouragement of mail-in voting has resulted in deliberate attacks on the U.S. Postal Service itself.
What changes have been made at the USPS?
The Postal Service has been struggling financially for years, and President Trump is attempting to impede necessary funding. His frequently voiced opinion on the legitimacy of mail-in voting suggests why he is denying aid for the USPS. In an interview last Thursday, Trump confirmed the theory:
Trump admits he’s sabotaging the Postal Service so universal mail voting will be impossible during an election that will be conducted amid a pandemic this November pic.twitter.com/epmxcgwLjK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 13, 2020
This comes after the President’s dismissal of a bipartisan-introduced bill giving the USPS 25 billion dollars “to cover losses related to the COVID-19 crisis”. In other words, not simply pertaining to the USPS, but to the pandemic itself. This bill would also be part of a larger goal to maintain the long-term stability of an essential service that has been losing billions of dollars since 2007. Democrats have fought for an additional $3.2 billion specifically for election funding.
Despite these benefits, Trump called it “election money…for something that will turn out to be fraudulent.” The House will vote on the bill on August 22nd. Republicans have subsequently decided to whip votes against this bill.
Recently, Postmaster General (PMG) Louis DeJoy has made significant changes to how the Postal Service operates. On July 10, a memo was sent out, informing USPS employees that they were no longer permitted to work overtime. This decision was made in the name of efficiency and cutting costs, but analysts have insisted that it will only slow delivery. Union leaders are frustrated, too. Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said:
“Overtime is being used because people need their packages in this pandemic. They need their mail in this pandemic. They need their medicines in this pandemic. They need their census forms. They need ballot information.”
More worrying changes are being implemented nationwide: Last week, residents started seeing public mailboxes being removed from their streets. Some have remained, locked down, while others have even been destroyed. Mail sorting machines have been disappearing as well. The American Postal Workers Union filed a grievance after learning that 671 sorting machines–thirteen percent of the nation’s total–were currently being decommissioned. Together, these machines would sort 21.4 million pieces of mail per hour. The USPS typically processes up to 500 million items every day.
A common defense of the USPS is that it has been removing mailboxes and machines for years. Because Americans are sending less letters each year, mailboxes and machines have become far less necessary. However, removals are higher than in years previous, and union officials are calling greater closure unwise.
An important aspect of this controversy is the USPS Board of Governors. Multiple board members, all assigned by the President, have connections with his administration and/or the Republican party.
- Robert M. Duncan: Former RNC chairman and director of the board of a super PAC supporting Trump’s 2020 campaign.
- William Zollars: Former CEO of a trucking company receiving a $700 million loan from the Treasury Department in exchange for a 30% equity stake.
- Roman Martinez: Former representative of a wealthy RNC donor, as well as an impressive donor to Republican causes (including the RNC) himself.
It’s also worth noting that the board majority (4-2) is Republican, with all four Republican members appointed by Trump.
One dramatic action taken by PMG DeJoy was what some are calling the “Friday Night Massacre”. On August 7, DeJoy significantly reorganized Postal Service executive positions, reassigning or displacing twenty-three people, including two top executives. By doing so, he took away leadership positions from experienced employees and put them into lower positions. Attracting criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, DeJoy defended himself:
“Early on, I concluded that our organizational structure was just such a problem to solve. I have decided we need to realign the organization…to give us a better chance for future success.”
These changes have strengthened the belief that PMG DeJoy and the Board of Governors are obsequiously acting on the President’s discouragement of mail-in voting. DeJoy himself has been a significant fundraiser for both Trump and the GOP itself. In one meeting he said:
“While I certainly have a good relationship with the President…the notion that I would ever make decisions concerning the Postal Service at the direction of the President…is wholly off-base.”
However, questions about his neutrality are now more prevalent in light of these newest cuts and replacements.
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What are the consequences of these changes?
For months, people have been complaining about their mail arriving late. Contrary to the PMG’s claims, these new changes have only slowed down the delivery process. Philadelphia, a Democratic city in a crucial swing state, has had significant problems with its postal services. Call-in and email complaints have piled up, with one resident receiving mail twice in three weeks. In Michigan, packages that arrived in three days now take two weeks. In Ohio, mail is piled up in distribution centers, undelivered despite being days late.
One particular group who have struggled are those regularly sent prescription drugs. Recently, people have been forced to wait while their medications remain in warehouses, unshipped. Frederic Rolando, president of the National Association of Postal Carriers, released a statement in April highlighting the importance of the USPS for people with health needs.
“[The Postal Service] handles 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments every year–that’s nearly 4 million each and every day.” He also expressed his frustration with the lack of support from the White House: “The administration clearly does not understand the importance of the Postal Service, especially now.”
Potential For Uncounted Ballots
On July 29, the USPS sent out letters to 46 states and Washington D.C., informing them about the possibility of mail-in ballots not being delivered on time. Important battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were given stronger warnings, due to their tight deadlines for requesting and sending ballots. Florida’s Secretary of State was warned:
“There is a significant risk that, at least in certain circumstances, ballots may be requested in a manner that is consistent with your election rules and returned promptly, and yet not be returned in time to be counted.”
In Pennsylvania, the voting registration deadline (October 19) overlaps with the latest recommended date to request a ballot. Also, the state deadline for requesting a ballot (October 27) overlaps with the latest recommended date to send in a ballot. As a result, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State has appealed to the Supreme Court. She has requested that the state may count mail-in ballots as late as November 6–provided they were sent by Election Day.Looking to make a difference? Consider signing one of these sponsored petitions:
What is being done to stop this?
In response to these dramatic changes, two federal lawsuits have been filed against the USPS, both by state Attorneys General: Josh Shapiro, from Pennsylvania, and Bob Ferguson, from Washington. Since then, other states have joined them.
- Washington suit: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
- Pennsylvania suit: California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.
The Washington suit calls PMG DeJoy’s new changes “unlawful”. It goes on to name each one: eliminating overtime; instructing carriers to leave mail behind; decommissioning sorting machines; removing mailboxes; reducing operating hours; and changing how election mail is classified and charged. At a press release on Tuesday, Ferguson said:
“We rely on the Postal Service for our Social Security benefits, prescriptions — and exercising our right to vote. Our coalition will fight to protect the Postal Service and uphold the rule of law in federal court.”
On Friday, August 14, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), along with other Democratic leaders, sent a letter to PMG DeJoy addressing the delivery problems his changes have caused. They requested he produce documents related to the institution of said changes and answer questions they had concerning the viability of mail-in voting under his changes in policy.
Two days later, DeJoy was asked to testify before the Committee on Oversight and Reform. This hearing will go over DeJoy’s dramatic actions and give the Committee an opportunity to determine his justification for the new policies and how he plans to address the potential election crisis. DeJoy has agreed to testify, and the hearing is scheduled for August 24. He will also testify before the Senate on Friday, August 21 alongside USPS board member Robert M. Duncan, who will provide information on the hiring process of the PMG.
In response to growing pressure, DeJoy announced on Tuesday that he would be halting some of the changes implemented recently. Mailboxes and sorting machines would no longer be taken away, and office hours would no longer be diminished–at least for now. Overtime would be approved “as needed”. DeJoy said he is reverting these changes to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
Unfortunately, DeJoy’s announcement was slightly misleading. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Friday that DeJoy “had no intention of replacing sorting machines [and] blue mailboxes”. She also said that there were no plans to reinstate overtime–something she declared “critical for timely delivery of mail”.
The Rantt Rundown
Voting by mail is becoming much more common as people avoid physical voting locations for fear of contracting COVID-19. If voters wish to retain their right to vote, they need their ballots to count. Should significant delays continue, many people will not have a say in this year’s election. PMG DeJoy’s changes must be repealed in order to prevent a massive blow to American democracy.