Sometimes it gets difficult to sort out Trump’s intentions from his actions. Not this time. There are moves afoot to suppress voting by interfering with the U. S. Postal Service. Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) reports.
When his tweet yesterday about delaying the election backfired, he turned to another angle of attack on mail-in voting, insisting that the election must be decided on Election Day itself, November 3. He tweeted: “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!”
In fact, there is no law that says election results must come the same day as the election. Historically, they used to take days. Votes need to be counted carefully. Some states permit any ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, and they take time to arrive. Provisional ballots need to be examined. Modern media channels like to see results quickly because it makes for good television, but that opens up the problem of vote tallies changing after an election result is called. This year, since significant numbers of ballots might come in after Election Day, it is reasonable to expect a final tally might come days after November 3.
What appears to be going on in Trump’s tweets is an attempt to rig the mechanics of the election to enable him to win by manipulating the ballots and counting. This, in turn, is leading to an attack on the United States Postal Service in order to delay or prevent the delivery of ballots.
Here’s the story:
On May 6, the board of governors of the United States Postal Service appointed Louis DeJoy to the position of Postmaster General. The board of governors consists entirely of Trump appointees, since the Senate stopped confirming appointees to it during President Barack Obama’s term, and began to confirm them again in 2018. DeJoy was a top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee, giving more than $2 million since 2016. For two decades the Postmaster General has risen from within the ranks of the agency, but DeJoy has no experience with the USPS. He was appointed after the vice chair of the board of governors, Democrat David Williams, resigned, citing the attempts of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to politicize the traditionally non-political USPS.
The pandemic is crippling the revenue of the agency since most mail is sent by businesses, which suddenly shut down in March. The USPS is projecting a $13 billion revenue shortfall by the end of September. In an early coronavirus relief bill, Congress allowed the agency to borrow $10 billion from the Treasury Department to help stem the bleeding. But Mnuchin refused to loan the money without terms that would turn over much of the operation of the USPS to the Treasury Department. Williams and the other Democrat on the board refused, but the three Republicans on the board were open to at least some of Mnuchin’s terms.
On July 14, DeJoy put major changes in place. These, he said, were intended to cut costs in order to keep the USPS afloat, but this explanation is suspicious since as soon as Trump was sworn in, his Office of Management and Budget produced a report that called for privatizing the USPS.
The emphasis on DeJoy’s changes is significantly less time spent managing the mail. For example, letter carriers must now leave mail behind at distribution centers if it would delay the completion of their routes according to new, tight, schedules. Traditionally, letter carriers make multiple delivery trips to ensure letters and packages are delivered on time; now the materials will wait for the next day. There will no longer be any overtime, and postal hours are being cut. Already, post offices are seeing a growing backlog of mail.
The USPS is popular. Ninety percent of Americans have a favorable view of it. If Congress allows the USPS to collapse and private companies take over the mail business, we can expect what we have seen with private internet providers: thorough service in urban areas that will turn a healthy profit, either none or very expensive service in rural areas.
Knowing how their constituents will react to the end of the mail system that was established in our Constitution, congress members have, in the past, been reluctant to destroy it. But now, the 2020 election might well hinge on mail-in ballots.
It is interesting to note that, for all the Republican Senators who spoke up to reject Trump’s call for a delayed election, not one of them is speaking up at this crucial moment for protecting the United States Postal Service, the agency on which many of will depend to deliver our vote to election officials in November.
For more details see the NYTimes’ Mail Delays Fuel Concern Trump Is Undercutting Postal System Ahead of Voting. The president’s long campaign against the Postal Service is intersecting with his assault on mail-in voting amid concerns that he has politicized oversight of the agency.
And thanks for the NY Times tip from Editor-at-Large Sherry.