The USPS, Vote-by-Mail, and the November 2020 Election

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has existed since the 1970s, providing cheap and convenient mailing services throughout the United States. In 2018, USPS published statistics on its daily processes, reporting that each day it processes and delivers approximately 472.1 million pieces of total mail, including 181.9 million pieces of First-Class mail. In May 2020, a new Postmaster General was appointed, and in June 2020, he announced changes to reduce the daily processing costs for the USPS. Changes include elimination of overtime pay and the removal of various mail-sorting machines.

These changes and their implementation have caused backups and slower than usual mail times, alarming citizens as they prepare to mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. President Trump has publicly expressed his desire to reduce mail-in ballots, stating that vote-by-mail increases voter fraud, though these claims are shown to be inaccurate.

On August 18, 2020, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that the USPS is preparing for the election cycle and committed to the standards needed for mail-in voting. Citizens rightfully remain concerned, though, given mail deliveries have notably slowed and there’s no clear communication from the presidential administration about funding for the USPS.

Multiple bills have been proposed to increase funding for the USPS, though these bills have either died or not yet been passed. And further, President Trump has openly opposed further funding, continuing his false claim that mail-in voting increases voter fraud. There remain important concerns about voter turnout for the November 2020 election, particularly if the USPS is not properly funded and cannot process ballots in a time-effective manner.

The USPS agency itself warned that last-minute ballots would potentially not make the election deadline, suggesting voters request mail-in ballots at least 15 days in advance—and voters should also tend to their respective states’ laws about when mail-in ballots must be requested.

Outside of the concerns with voting in the 2020 election cycle, changes to the USPS affect the everyday lives of many citizens. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 41% of retired Americans require access to USPS services, due to receiving prescriptions via mail and general lack of internet, amongst other concerns. Notably, the USPS handles about 1.2 billion prescriptions per year, with nearly all prescriptions for elderly veterans (through the US Department of Veterans Affairs) being delivered via USPS. Regardless of the reasoning, a significant number of Americans are being alienated and potentially fatally harmed due to changes in USPS funding.

During an investigation by Homeland Security, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy stated that some changes to the USPS would be halted but not reversed. And thus, removal of mail-sorting machinery that has occurred since DeJoy’s appointment is still in place, thereby limiting processing capacity of the USPS.

These changes must be reversed in order for the USPS to be operating at its full potential for election day and beyond. And thus, we must be diligent in requesting our mail-in ballots, returning them quickly, and with lots of time to spare. Though we shouldn’t have to, we must account for the potential delays with the USPS in November.

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