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On Our Minds: The USPS and What It Means for the Upcoming Election

Aug 28, 2020

The USPS and What It Means for the Upcoming Election

Above: Donna Pennington and Ardyth Hamilton, Seattle’s first women mail carriers, 1942 (Source)

Hi friends, 

Kendall and Jess tag-teaming this post today to tap into one very important (and overwhelming) issue that seems to be everywhere you look. It’s another day in 2020 paradise over here — where we find ourselves fighting for things that would, in any other time, sound like common sense–like science, equality, and the mail.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard a lot about the USPS and voting by mail in the news lately, and since details on the situation have escalated quickly, we wanted to compile a blog post about what’s going on, why the stakes are so high, and what action steps you can take to help. 

Here’s the latest scoop!

The USPS and What It Means for the Upcoming Election

Overview: The United States Postal Service is in trouble 

The USPS is an independent agency within the federal government that relies on revenue from stamps and first-class mail, not taxpayer funding. For years, it’s been in billions of dollars in debt due to several reasons. (Barons has a good article on this as well, if you’d like to dig deeper.) 

  • The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act– passed in 2006, this law required the USPS to pre-fund future health and retirement benefits for its 600,000+ workers. Not even two decades later, the USPS has racked up more than $160 billion in debt by prepaying for benefits on top of operating deficits. 
  • A decline in mail use- Snail mail isn’t what it used to be–people rarely send letters these days, and most people pay their bills online. For a company that relies largely on stamp sales to generate revenue, that’s a major problem. Additionally, there is stiff competition from companies like Amazon who ship their own packages. 
  • And COVID-19- Of course, the pandemic has only made matters worse as businesses have decreased advertisements and mailers, and individuals have cut back on sending mail, leading to a sudden drop in mail volume and revenue. 

In short, the USPS is hurting–which is why it’s calling on Congress and President Trump for help — to the tune of $75 billion by September. 

Enter: Politics 

Take an essential component of our country’s infrastructure that provides a vital service to everyone, add a pandemic and upcoming election and you’ve got a real political cluster. Here’s where major players stand on the issue: 

  • President Trump says he won’t provide financial support to the USPS and made waves with his comments opposing USPS funding, saying “universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic,” and tweeting “if you can protest in person, you can vote in person.” Some are accusing him of withholding USPS aid to suppress mail-in votes. (It’s worth noting that five states already conduct their voting entirely by mail and have been doing so for years, with very little evidence of fraud or corruption.) 
  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced major changes to help USPS’ finances — such as reduced hours, no overtime and the removal of letter collection boxes and processing machines — which has already led to a major mail backlog. DeJoy is friendly with Trump causing some to conclude that they are working together to advance political interests. 
  • The public has voiced great criticism and outcry to DeJoy’s proposed changes and many fear how the USPS can be relied on for mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. President Trump’s comments about not wanting to enable universal mail-in voting also have people worried that their voice won’t be heard in November, and many believe DeJoy and Trump are manipulating the agency to undermine mail-in voting. 

The latest:

Postmaster General DeJoy announced that he has suspended changes until after the election to avoid any impact on election mail — meaning hours will stay the same, mailboxes will not be removed, and overtime requests will be approved as needed. Granted, he did not say that the 10% reduction if of USPS’ mail-sorting machines would be reversed or restored, despite the fact that they have the capacity to sort 21.4 million pieces of paper mail per hour. 

Concerns that the USPS will be unable to handle the volume of mail-in ballots without extra help are seemingly mounting by the hour. The Washington Post recently reported that the USPS recently sent letters to 46 states warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted. (Read the full article here, thanks Hitha for sharing this!) 

Why this matters

It could lead to privatization

If and when Postmaster General DeJoy’s new policies are implemented, many fear they will lead to privatizing the agency, and believe privatization of the post office will lead to the prioritization of profits over people, therefore putting millions of Americans at a disadvantage.

It impacts us all 

An essential component of our country’s infrastructure, the USPS provides a vital service to everyone. Without the support it needs, we risk losing a resource that impacts our health (prescription drugs), wallets (paychecks), and democracy (census, voting ballots). This would especially impact small businesses that use USPS as the only affordable option to mail their goods. Not to mention–our bank accounts would take a big hit with anything we order online! We would likely need to be prepared to pay a LOT more in shipping. (So if you don’t think the future of the post office will affect you–think again!)

Postal workers have already voiced their concerns about DeJoy’s proposed policies, saying that they led to wide-spread delivery hold-ups, including essential mail and Social Security checks. 

Certain populations will suffer more

While the USPS serves us all, it will impact certain populations more than others — including those below the poverty line, folks in rural areas, remote indigenous reservations, people with disabilities, and the elderly — populations that depend on the USPS’ affordable services.

Jobs are in jeopardy 

According to the Pew Research Center, the USPS employs more than 100,000 military veterans, and employees are more racially and ethnically diverse than the U.S. labor force as a whole (one of the largest employers of BIPOC in the nation). A lack of funding would jeopardize integral jobs during an unemployment crisis. 

An election during a pandemic 

With the upcoming election around the corner and a continued pandemic, a record number (180 million+) of Americans are expected to mail in their votes this year. Many consider the administration’s refusal of emergency funding to constitute voter suppression and election interference. Without mail-in voting, millions of Americans would not be able to vote. 

Bottom line: if you posted a black square in June, you should also be fighting for a post office bailout. If you aren’t, consider what that says about your privilege.

Why our votes matter, and how to make sure your vote is counted

Now, more than ever, it is essential that we do everything we can to ensure our votes are counted. Every last vote matters and everyone’s vote is equally as important. I know, it’s easy to hear this and roll your eyes, but let’s look at some numbers, yeah? 

According to The Cook Political Report’s running tally as reported by US News and World Report, here’s a snapshot of the top 5 closest 2016 states, ranked from narrowest margin by percentage to widest. 

1. Michigan 0.3 percent

Trump 47.6 percent, Clinton 47.3 percent

Difference: 13,080 votes

2. New Hampshire 0.4 percent

Clinton 47.6 percent, Trump 47.2 percent

Difference: 2,701 votes

3. Wisconsin 1 percent

Trump 47.9 percent, Clinton 46.9 percent

Difference: 27,257 votes

4. Pennsylvania 1.2 percent

Trump 48.8 percent, Clinton 47.6 percent

Difference: 68,236 votes (99 percent reporting)

5. Florida 1.2 percent

Trump 49 percent, Clinton 47.8 percent

Difference: 114,455 votes

I would like to make the point that if everyone who is reading this article right now voted–we would have MORE than the number of votes that made the difference in EVERY SINGLE STATE listed above, including FLORIDA–which is one of the most important battleground states in this election. 

Your voting plan checklist: 

Where do you go from here? 

  • Confirm you’re registered to vote. Even if you just voted in the last election, things happen ALL the time. You can do that here.
  • Make a voting plan — which is more important than ever in 2020. See our “How to make a voting plan” blog post here to help! 
  • If you are low-risk and able, consider masking up and voting EARLY in person, if your state allows early voting. Voting early usually allows you to avoid the lines, thus more socially-distanced friendly, however, as we saw with the primary election–anything can happen, so be prepared to wait. Block off your calendar. Bring a book. Bring a snack. Long lines are a form of voter suppression–make sure you’re going in prepared. For many Americans, mail-in voting is the only option, but if those who CAN vote in person do so, we can help lessen the overwhelm. 
  • Determine your state’s mail-in application deadline and any other information you need to know. You can do that here
  • Sign up for election reminders so you don’t miss dates and deadlines in your area. 
  • If sending a mail-in ballot, send it as early as you possibly can to ensure it is received on time. Consider dropping your ballot off at a dropbox if your state allows it so you don’t need to rely on the mail. 

More next steps: Ways you can help the USPS and ensure everyone’s right to vote by mail: 

Use USPS

It’s time to send some care packages, write letters, send birthday cards, etc. Use USPS right now!

Shop USPS

Buy stamps, cards, envelopes, shipping supplies, and more via USPS. Stock up on everything you need to make someone’s mail day and support USPS in the process!

Write Your Representatives 

And demand their support of the USPS. Simply text USPS to 50409 to make your voice heard!

Make Your Voice Heard

Sign this petition to let the White House know you’re against blocking USPS relief funding. 

 

I hope this was helpful! If you thought so, please share with your friends and family! Let’s spread the word, send some mail, establish a 2020 voting plan, and ensure our votes are counted! ????

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