The past few months have been turbulent for the United States Postal Service (USPS) due to the age of COVID-19, the possibility of voting by mail in November, and the climax of the service’s decline that has been ongoing since 2006.
As voting by mail is becoming an increasingly popular option due to its safety and overall convenience, many politicians, including President Donald J. Trump have expressed concerns about the integrity of an election that uses mail on a large rate.
On July 30th, Trump published a tweet about the upcoming election and the effect voting by mail would have, saying, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in History. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, security and safely vote???”
For many, voting by mail seems to provide only benefits to the democratic process; it decreases voter suppression, encourages participation in elections, offers safety during the pandemic, and has even proven to not benefit one party over the other. While this issue has divided the left and the right, a popular idea has unified some, and its premise is simple: voting matters. Dr. Daniel Bennett, a Political Science professor at John Brown University, said, “Let’s make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to safely cast votes in November.”
While voting by mail already exists in some forms throughout the United States, there are more calls now than ever to expand availability to everyone. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.”
Part of the turmoil has been the result of the recent appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was sworn in on June 15. A month later, word began to spread that there was an “operation pivot” announced in a USPS memo obtained by the Washington Post that began limiting certain operations and prohibited overtime.
These changes created a sort of postal traffic jam that is still persisting today. However, DeJoy has since come out and announced that the changes will be taken away and re-implemented after the election. Regardless, the changes have wrought issues across the nation, including live poultry dying during transport en masse and, as many JBU students have already experienced, delivery delays.
Due to all of this, the fate of mail-in voting for the upcoming election and any elections in the future is still rather murky. As of August 14th, the New York Times is reporting that 21% of voters will have a ballot mailed to them, 57% can utilize absentee voting and 22% can access absentee voting with a required excuse. While absentee voting is essentially the same thing as mail-in voting, the president has voiced support over Twitter for absentee voting. President Trump is an absentee voter.
Despite the benefits of mail-in voting, many from both parties have expressed concern over the legitimacy of the election that utilizes this, saying that the votes could be tampered with or thrown away. Matthew Mill, an undeclared freshman, said, “It’s a really convenient and accessible way to get people to vote, especially if you’re working odd hours, but care for sure needs to be taken to ensure the accuracy of the results.”
Photo courtesy of NAPPY