Can We No Longer Trust the Mailman?
Trump and some devious carriers are using the postal service to suppress the vote this November
The 2020 election will definitely not look like any other election in American history. A record number of states will allow for expanded early voting options including vote by mail. Although mail balloting, sometimes known as absentee voting, has been around since at least the Civil War, it has come under new scrutiny this year as Trump has claimed that this type of voting is open to fraud. While there has been an infinitesimal number of voter fraud cases tied to vote by mail, with one Heritage Foundation study finding that only 14 cases out of the 15.5 million votes cast existed in Oregon since 1998, there is still some real concerns about this type of voting.
While issues like harvesting ballots, changing votes, or creating fake ballots seem to be at the top of Trump’s list of concerns, this is not what should concern the average voter. Instead, voters should be worried about whether Trump’s Post Office can handle the sudden influx of ballots. This concern was heightened by the announcement that new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was cutting overtime hours and closing branches. Some locations are even cutting hours during the busiest times of day, making it harder for the average person to get to the post office and mail their ballot. DeJoy, who was a major Trump donor giving over $1.2 million to various Trump political action groups since 2016, took over as Postmaster General in May, just as the general election was starting to heat up and just as many states began relaxing their rules for who could vote by mail.
“A lot of this has been dropped on us with little or no communication,” Elizabeth Coonan, a steward for the American Postal Workers Union Local 3264 in the Clarksburg, West Virginia area told VICE. “The times that they’re slating [the offices] to close is when they do a lot of business.”
The cutback in service is also worrying election officials. In many states, there are tight deadlines on when ballots must be received. Most require the ballot to be postmarked on or before Election Day and they must be received by the Board of Elections within 7 days of the election. This makes sense, you wouldn’t want someone voting after the results start to come out and you need to count the votes promptly.
The Washington Post says that postal union leaders and workers are warning that they are already backlogged and are currently facing a two-day delay on all mail, including for Express mail. This means that if it usually took four days to deliver a piece of mail, it will now take six. This is partially due to cuts, but it is also due to COVID-19 which has increased the number of packages coming through the postal system. For voters, this will mean that your ballot will arrive later than usual and must be mailed back earlier than in previous elections. If they are already overwhelmed, imagine what it will look like in November when over a hundred million ballots are mailed.
Another concern is the quality and intergity of the actual postal worker. Could they either accidentally or purposely invalidate a ballot. In New York's recent primary, Gothamist and WNYC reported that numerous ballots were tossed for having no postmark on them, even though the State Board of Elections and the USPS claim to have sent a directive to their local branches telling them to postmark all ballots. Any ballot that was received by the Board of Elections without a postmark after Election Day would be thrown out, disenfranchising the voter. While this is likely unintentional, as the Post Office doesn’t usually postmark mail with business reply on it, these new standards, that are specifically for election mail, must be passed along to all Postal Workers well in advance of Election Day. However, with post offices closing or reducing their hours, it will be harder than ever to get your ballot in front of someone to ensure that it receives a postmark.
We also need to worry about the bad mail carrier. While the vast, vast majority of postal workers are great public servants like at any job, there are a few that are bad apples. These are the mail carriers that throw away mail or rush through their route to head to the bar. However with mail-in ballots, that bad apple could turn an election.
Already in 2020, a mail carrier has been arrested and charged with voter fraud. Thomas Cooper, a mail carrier in Pendleton County, W.V. pled guilty in one count of “Attempt to Defraud the Residents of West Virginia of a Fair Election” and one count of “Injury to the Mail.” Cooper was a arrested after he changed 5 ballot applications from Democrat to Republican. Thankfully the fraud was caught by a county clerk who happened to know the voters. However, if the election is close and a few of these bad apples decide to change or destroy votes, there is the possibility that an entire election could be changed. Can we really put the fate of our nation in the hands of these Trump-supporting letter carriers? Even UCOMM's very own letter carrier in New York is suspect. A known gossiper and rabblerouser who refuses to wear a mask, he has called the pandemic a hoax and takes great pride in Trump being President. Can we trust that he will do his actual job this November?
With less than 100 days to go until the election, voters need to consider the possibility that Trump’s interference at the Post Office could mean that your ballot is delayed or not counted at all. If you are healthy and COVID-19 is not spiking in your area, it may make sense to vote in person either at an early voting site or vote on Election Day. If you are voting by mail, get your ballot in super early. In most states you can already request an absentee ballot and they will be sent out in early to mid-October. you can find out more about your state's requirements here. Don’t wait until the last minute to request one, since it will take a few days for the Board of Elections to process your request and another 4-6 days for the Postal Service to deliver it. You might also want to drop it off at your local post office, instead of leaving it in a blue box or handing it to a mail carrier and witness that they postmark it before Election Day.