Your ballot for the upcoming Presidential Election is safe. Fill it out. Mail it. Done. And contrary to President Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, no one will touch it except those authorized to do so. Vote by mail has been the preferred way of casting a ballot in Colorado since 2013. Few instances of voter fraud have occurred. Scores of studies have also confirmed voter fraud is more often nothing more than a convenient talking point.
But as the President rails against vote-by-mail and threatens withholding funds to the Postal Service, ripples of concern are rolling across the landscape, from senders, to recipients to the men and women---more than 600,000---who process the tons of letters and packages that move through postal centers in every state in the country.
Under new Postmaster General and Trump appointee Louis DeJoy, high speed mail processing machines in numerous postal centers, including Colorado, have been shut down or removed, scores of blue box letter drops have been uprooted and retired, and late-arriving mail has been ordered to be left alone and processed the next day. The result? Delays.
Despite a national outcry, the administration defends its approach as a way of improving the USPS and reducing red ink, a long-running reality in USPS. Much of the anger is aimed at DeJoy, a businessman and mega-donor to the Trump campaign whose sum total of postal knowledge and experience can be measured in weeks.
Omar Gonzalez, Western Regional Coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union, says under Trump and DeJoy, postal workers are uncertain about the direction USPS is taking, particularly as processing machines are removed and retired and overtime is reexamined.
Overtime, an often expensive necessity in order to meet delivery schedules, had been taken off the table under DeJoy. It was a move that only added to the stress of meeting deadlines, said the postal veteran. Removing machines just adds another level of stress, said Gonzalez. “Employee lives are disrupted when you take out machines,” he said. “It impacts scheduling, sets entire home life in turmoil and not being told ‘why’ impacts morale.”
Testifying via Zoom last Friday, DeJoy told senators that overtime has been restored and that no more machines nor the recognizable blue boxes scattered across communities would be removed but only until the election. He provided no assurances after that. He also said that any and all moves were scheduled and that no one should have been surprised.
Actions ordered by DeJoy have delayed delivery of medications, caused rent and mortgage checks to arrive late, hampered delivery of foodstuffs and, in one case, caused the deaths of nearly 5,000 baby chicks in what should have been a routine delivery to a Maine poultry farmer.
Colorado has joined in a multi-state lawsuit against the USPS over its plans to revamp the way it does business. “Every Coloradan who uses the Postal Service for essential and time-sensitive items should be alarmed,” said State Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Veterans who depend on the Postal Service for medical prescriptions have complained that prescriptions that normally arrive within a week are now taking longer. For those who depend on the VA for insulin or PTSD medication, delays can sometimes become matters of life and death.
Last year the Postal Service delivered more than 1.2 billion prescriptions many of which went to the more than 400,000 veterans in Colorado. Weiser’s lawsuit was also a counter shot at the administration and its claims that massive scale voter fraud could result in vote-by-mail.
“We are bringing this lawsuit to fight for every citizen’s constitutional right to vote and to protect our State’s ability to manage our reliable, safe, and easy-to-use vote at home election system,” said Weiser.
Trump has long been a critic of USPS going back to the days when he was putting his name on hotels and casinos and performing as a TV reality star. But then, the only thing he could do is sit on the sidelines and opine. He’s President today and wields power he could only dream about back then.
Today, with every imaginable perk and power of his office, things are different. He can appoint cronies and allies to do his bidding under the guise of streamlining and upgrading government agencies. In this case, the USPS.
From the Oval Office, his attacks are often couched in business-like efforts to deliver cost savings and efficiency. His latest attack, however, a case for staving off a wholesale attack of voter fraud with mail-in ballots, is dubious. It’s an argument that makes sense had he only not added that he was gong to block new funding for USPS making it easier to limit voting by mail; a red herring argument critics say aimed at improving his chances for victory, particularly in swing states that he needs to win. Trump, incidentally, votes by mail in his adopted state of Florida.
A House vote over the weekend approved a $25 billion aid package to fund the Postal Service and stop changes eyed by the President and DeJoy. However well intentioned the vote will go nowhere without the Senate voting similarly. Senate President Mitch McConnell said he has no plans to hold a vote saying the Postal Service will be “just fine.”
As the two bodies tussle over the Postal Service, the only government agency specifically named in the Constitution, postal workers, said Gonzalez, will keep punching the clock and doing their jobs. That means nearly two-hundred million pieces of mail will be processed today and nearly all should make it to their destination without delay, “as long as we’re able to get our jobs done,” the veteran postman said.