For months, Donald Trump has promoted his conspiracy theory that voting by mail leads to “widespread voter fraud.” Analyses of past elections indicate that he is wrong. Nevertheless, Trump maintains that if a large number of Americans vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election, the election will be illegitimized. As he pushes his narrative, Trump, himself, is attempting to cheat possibly millions of voters out of their right and access to vote during a pandemic that would otherwise force voters to choose between risking infection at the polls and staying home. The White House’s efforts to obstruct mail-in voting, however, may go beyond simply preaching and tweeting against it.
The U.S. Postal Service has a new Postmaster General, Trump loyalist Louis DeJoy. DeJoy has no experience as a letter carrier or postal service employee, unlike Postmasters General who preceded him, but he is a top Trump donor. If that’s not worrisome, we have only to consider the other heavy donors Trump has appointed to top government positions for which they had no background experience, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.
In addition, DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, have some stakes in several Postal Service competitors, including United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS). In some other sectors, this might be called conflict of interests. But this is the Trump administration.
We can hardly be surprised that Postmaster General DeJoy wants to dramatically reform the U.S. Postal Service, ostensibly in the name of efficiency. One of his first changes will be to eliminate overtime for hundreds of thousands of U.S. postal workers, even though he knows that it will cause delays in mail delivery. DeJoy also plans to cut services and reduce hours of operation at some post offices, as well as close a number of others.
The U.S. Postal Service’s finances have been strained for years, and the coronavirus pandemic has placed an additional burden on it. The coronavirus relief package that Congress passed in March, however, authorized the U.S. Postal Service to borrow up to $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury to maintain essential services during the pandemic. Though the agency operates independently of the federal government, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led efforts by the White House to persuade the Postal Service to agree to greater presidential control in exchange for the federal bailout funding. Incidentally, the president has expressed his contempt for the U.S. Post Office, referring to it as a “joke.”
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in mail-in voting in this year’s elections. During the spring primary elections, absentee ballots were up exponentially from previous years. With no foreseeable end to the spread of the virus by November, even more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, and many states want to facilitate this.
Most states already allow some type of mail-in voting. Republicans fear that it favors Democrats, but according to data, it has not historically provided either party with an advantage. At the same time, increased voter turnout tends to benefit Democrats, and voting by mail will make it easer to vote, thus increasing voter turnout. Trump has clearly been made aware of this.
The president knows he lags significantly behind his opponent, Joe Biden, in most presidential polls. His attempts now to portray mail-in voting as fraught with cheating and fraud are setting the stage for Trump’s intention to discredit the election should he lose.
This week, Trump realized that his efforts to interfere with mail-in voting might work too well, where some of his supporters are concerned. Fearing a situation in November where the coronavirus would keep them home on Election Day, Trump amended his crusade against mail-in voting. He urged GOP voters in Florida and Arizona, only, to cast their ballots by mail, saying, in effect, “It doesn’t work well in most places, except in Florida and Arizona.” Both states have Republican governors.
In contrast, the Trump administration is suing Democrat-run Nevada over its plan to allow universal mail-in voting, saying Nevada is “unprepared.”
“Even if Nevada wanted to do it well, they wouldn’t have enough time. I’m sure the post office doesn’t have enough time. Millions of ballots all of a sudden coming out of nowhere? You know, voting starts in a very short period of time.”
If voters and their governors can’t be discouraged from mailing in their votes during the 2020 election, some lawmakers fear that the U.S. Postal Service, itself, could interfere with election integrity. Postal workers will continue doing their best to get mail to its destination as quickly as possible. The new boss that Trump has appointed for them, however, could slow things down considerably.
Without specifically naming Donald Trump or Louis DeJoy, former President Barack Obama, during his eulogy for the late congressman John Lewis, warned of the current attack on voting rights that is being conducted “with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
With DeJoy’s postal reforms just in time for the November election, imagine a surge of ballots lying on the floors of post offices across the country and missing their deadlines or timelines because postal workers are no longer allowed to work overtime to process them in a timely manner. Imagine low-income rural voters, such as those in West Virginia, where DeJoy plans to close a number of post offices, unable to get to a nearby post office to ensure a timely postmark on their ballots. Imagine bundles of ballots from certain areas of the country being altogether mysteriously “misplaced.”
Since many states don’t currently accept mail-in ballots unless they arrive by Election Day (even if postmarked before Election Day), on-time delivery will be crucial to this election. If ballots miss deadlines despite voters’ doing all they can to ensure timely arrival, voters will have been disenfranchised. As head of the U.S. Postal Service, Louis DeJoy has the authority and duty to ensure that voters who cast their votes with mail-in ballots are not deprived of their right to vote. But, as stated earlier, this is the Trump administration.
Let’s Talk Trump’s Appointment of Postmaster General DeJoy and the Elements of Criminal Conspiracy | Glenn Kirschner [2020-08-04]
How Trump Is Slowing Down The Post Office In The Year Of The Mail-In Ballot | All In | MSNBC [2020-07-29]