Donald Trump has been trying to kill the U.S. Postal Service by depriving it of funding. Until then, he has installed one of his political cronies to run the Postal Service, and he is already beta testing a slowdown of the mail service with an eye towards causing havoc with mail ballots this fall.
In Arizona, Early voting in the general election begins October 7.
Hunter at Daily Kos reported, New postmaster general moves to slow deliveries—even as states gear up vote-by-mail efforts:
America’s conservatives want to kill off your post office. This is not exactly new news, but under Donald Trump’s feckless and bumbling rule, they are coming closer than ever to doing it. Trump’s new postmaster general, campaign donor rich-guy Louis DeJoy, is wasting no time making changes in the name of “efficiency.” Coincidentally, efficiency means making service worse.
DeJoy’s changes reach down into the day-to-day of how the U.S. Postal Service actually delivers mail, reports The Washington Post. DeJoy’s new rules bar overtime, period, even if offices are short-staffed (due, say, to a pandemic). He also instructs that mail should henceforth be left in distribution centers for the next day if those centers “run late,” rather than delaying letter carriers from leaving at their appointed times to conduct their routes. It sounds harmless enough, but extended nationwide, that small change has big implications for service.
Really big news: the new appointed head of the Postal Service announced changes that could slow mail delivery: https://t.co/h4fHlFLcpu
Declining postal service was already a huge risk to voting by mail. Read our story here: https://t.co/rGqrOM2FVG
— Ryan McCarthy (@mccarthyryanj) July 14, 2020
Some watchdog groups and elected officials, in fact, are pretty certain that the moves are indeed designed to sabotage Postal Service competitiveness and survival.
Most obviously, DeJoy’s biggest change means that during busier-than-normal times—or even just odd times—packages may start arriving a day late. While this may make the service more “efficient” in its scheduling, it also makes the Postal Service slightly less competitive against the package delivery services that compete with it—especially coupled with a potential rate hike in the coming year. It may be a small change, but making the Postal Service slightly less reliable and significantly more expensive than it was before will assuredly cause some number of customers to switch from it to private competitors. (The federal service is already at a disadvantage because it is required to deliver nationwide while its private competitors can and do simply ignore unprofitable, sparsely populated areas.)
A bigger current problem, however, is DeJoy’s instruction to make this change at this precise moment in time. Despite the Trump administration getting bored with it and moving on to other things, we remain in the midst of a pandemic. Public gatherings are extremely dangerous during a pandemic, meaning that literally every place in America not governed by nihilistic imbeciles is encouraging voters to vote by mail. Those registration forms, sample ballots, and ballots will be going out, en masse, to post offices. Which, if they get too busy, are now instructed to just let each them sit for a day.
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 20, 2020
Senior Democrats on a House panel wrote to the new postmaster general to press him on reports the service was prepared to delay mail delivery if needed to cut costs, a move that could affect mail-in ballot results https://t.co/T0lEW7S6D0 pic.twitter.com/ui22Hlk5Be
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 20, 2020
It’s not that the move is explicitly designed to inconvenience state efforts to hold by-mail elections, of course. The new postmaster general would never be so petty. But it does seem a serendipitous coincidence.
Roger Sollenberger adds at Salon, “Disturbing” memo reveals Trump’s USPS chief has slowed delivery amid calls to expand voting by mail:
DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman, ascended to the head office in May after the resignation of Ron Stroman. Stroman, who had defended the integrity of voting by mail, was reportedly forced out amid coordinated Republican attempts to undermine public faith in the service.
“Stroman was specifically key on elections and vote by mail — this is not a good sign,” ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman tweeted in response to the resignation.
Vote-by-mail advocates say any new policy which slows deliveries might mean bad news for mail-in ballots, yielding delays in ballot requests and possible confusion surrounding the tabulations of votes. This represents an acute concern for upstart Democratic congressional candidates looking to pick off Republican seats.
“The people in power are trying to keep voter turnout low, and they’re hoping that fear keeps us from exercising our constitutional right to vote so they can stay in power. But they have another thing coming,” MJ Hegar, who on Wednesday was declared the winner of the Democratic Senate primary in Texas, told Salon.
“We are going to keep fighting to allow Texans to vote by mail and ensure Texans don’t have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and public health,” she added.
James Mackler, aspiring Democratic candidate for Senate in Tennessee and a veteran of the War in Iraq, called the report in The Post “deeply disturbing” in an email to Salon.
“This deeply disturbing report is another example of a willingness to abuse the powers of the executive branch for political gain,” Mackler said. “Our democracy works best when people vote, volunteer and make their voices heard. Efforts to suppress Americans’ right to vote – and do so safely by mail – fly in the face of what I fought to defend on the battlefield and in the courtroom.”
The Post followed up its reporting, Scattered problems with mail-in ballots this year signal potential November challenges for Postal Service (excerpts):
Problems caused by a spike in absentee voting during this year’s primaries are serving as potential warning signs for the U.S. Postal Service, which is bracing for an expected onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall as states and cities push alternatives to in-person voting because of the pandemic.
The concern extends to local elections offices that may be unaccustomed to aspects of the mail, such as the time it takes for parcels to reach their destinations and how to design their ballots to meet postal standards.
So the Postal Service is regularly sending advice and checklists to thousands of elections officials. Local elections offices are hiring temporary workers to process absentee ballots, and some local elections boards are adding options for voters to do curbside drop-offs of their mail ballots on Election Day.
The Postal Service is also recommending that voters request their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day and mail their completed ballots at least one week before the due date.
In a statement to The Washington Post, the Postal Service said it was working closely with state and local elections officials to head off problems in the fall.
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The expected surge in mail ballots has put a spotlight on the Postal Service, already under scrutiny because of President Trump, who has attacked it as a “joke” and made unfounded claims that mail-in voting is susceptible to widespread fraud.
The attention has been intensified by a partisan battle over a potential federal bailout of the agency and the recent appointment of a top Trump donor, Louis DeJoy, as postmaster general. DeJoy announced cost-cutting changes in a Monday memo, including slowing mail delivery.
In addition, Ronald Stroman, the deputy postmaster general widely credited with improving relationships with elections officials in recent years, resigned from his position in June — raising concerns about who will take over the role under the new postmaster general and whether that person will keep the same emphasis.
“We are concerned, because [the Postal Service] shouldn’t be political,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “Here’s a new postmaster general, and by the way, he just happens to be a megadonor of President Trump. Certainly, on the surface, there’s a real worry about cronyism and patronage and whether someone is being put into place to carry out an agenda. We hope that’s not the case.”
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In a new report, the Postal Service raised concerns about states’ new ballot deadlines that do not comport with postal guidelines and warned of potential delays nationwide for the general election if those deadlines are not changed.
Whether ballots are submitted in time for counting depends on several factors, including differences in delivery times for First Class Mail, which is more expedited and takes two to five days, compared to standard marketing mail, which could take up to 10 days to deliver.
And in another report by The Post, Tens of thousands of mail ballots have been tossed out in this year’s primaries. What will happen in November? (excerpt):
In Nevada, about 6,700 ballots were rejected in June because election officials could not verify voters’ signatures.
And during Pennsylvania’s primary last month, only state and court orders prevented tens of thousands of late-returned ballots from being disqualified.
As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the House and Senate.
While the number of rejected ballots in Florida and Nevada represents a fraction of those cast in their primaries, the unprecedented shift toward absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic could make such margins potentially significant in the fall. In 2016, roughly 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin helped Donald Trump win the White House.
The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”
* * *
Worries about rejected ballots comes in the wake of the most chaotic presidential primary season in memory, when Americans fearful of the coronavirus embraced absentee voting in record numbers to avoid crowds at polling places. The result was an unexpected stress test of mail balloting systems, many of which were designed to handle only a small portion of the vote and not ready to scale up in response to a pandemic.
Election experts said if that trend continues in the fall, the number of ballots that end up being tossed out could far exceed the nearly 319,000 mail and absentee ballots that were rejected nationwide in the 2016 general election, a rate of about 1 percent of mailed ballots, according to a survey by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
So far, there are ample signs that voting by mail is on track to reach new heights.
Joan McCarter at Daily Kos follows up, Trump and new postmaster general’s corruption of the Postal Service could harm the election:
Donald K. Sherman, deputy director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., and Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, have a warning for the nation: “Donald Trump’s election of crony and big donor Louis DeJoy to leave the U.S. Postal Service “threatens to corrupt one of America’s most trusted institutions at a key moment.” The institution is the U.S. Postal Service, and the key moment is November’s election, conducted in the middle of a pandemic.
“Without increased and sustained scrutiny of DeJoy’s leadership of the Postal Service, our democracy could face dire consequences,” Sherman and Albert write. “Having a political ally with ethical and competence questions like DeJoy lead the agency potentially puts November’s election at risk.” Millions of voters are going to be voting absentee this year because of the coronavirus. The perfect storm of a pandemic, the most corrupt person to ever sit in the Oval Office, a Republican rubber stamp in the Senate, an already-weakened Postal Service, and a Trump lackey in charge of the institution is extraordinarily dangerous. From now until Nov. 3 is a short timeframe for Trump to destroy public trust in both the Postal Service and in the election system, but it appears he’s going to do his damnedest.
In his Fox interview Sunday with Chris Wallace, Trump threatened to ignore the results of the election should he lose, and said: “You don’t know until you see, I think it depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election,” Trump said. “I really do.” That’s despite the fact that “Trump himself and over 20 members of his family, administration, campaign team, and other top officials in his orbit have voted or tried to vote by mail in recent years.”
Of course it’s different when you’re set to lose—again—the popular vote. He’s got an accomplice now in the Postal Service.
Return you mail ballot early; please remember to sign and date the interior ballot envelope and include your daytime telephone number. You can check the status of your mail ballot on your county recorder website (although when I did this today I got an error message). You can also call, but please do not do this on election day. Vote early to make certain that your mail ballot is received on time. Or you can vote early in person, and wear a mask!
UPDATE: Lisa Graves, Executive Director of True North research, for In The Public Interest, a research and policy center committed to promoting the common good and democratic control of public goods and services, has an in-depth research briefing about The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service:
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the already-struggling U.S. Postal Service to the brink of financial collapse. But the most trusted and popular institution in America hasn’t been struggling by accident. Since the 1970s, a concerted effort to popularize the fringe idea of privatizing the Postal Service has been advanced for nearly five decades with the support of one man: the billionaire and libertarian ideologue, Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries. This brief traces Koch’s connections, influence, and ideological push to weaken and ultimately privatize one of America’s most essential public services—and, along with it, the jobs of hundreds of thousands of public servants.
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So, how did we get to the point where the people who represent us in Washington, D.C., are willing to kill the most trusted and popular institution in America?
One man, Charles Koch, has played a singular role.
This in-depth report is a long read but is a good explainer.