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Online Purchases and the American Election: Vote with your Dollar

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Edited by Vlada Taits 

The Problem With the United States Postal Service

Given the current situation with COVID-19, many Americans are considering voting in the upcoming federal election via mail-in ballots.  Unfortunately, this will be easier said than done, as the United States Postal Service (USPS) has faced significant budgetary cuts over the last few months.  While most of the changes have been temporarily paused, some of the mail sorting machines have been destroyed and the USPS is already strained due to an increase in online shopping during the pandemic. This is extremely dangerous when considering the fact that according to the Washington Post, 32 percent of Americans reported wanting to vote by mail this year. With the USPS already struggling to keep up, the influx of votes may simply be too much mail to handle, resulting in votes being missed.  

What You Can Do About it

If you’ve spent quarantine ordering more packages than you probably should’ve, you definitely aren’t alone. However, now might be the time to reevaluate some of those purchases, especially with regards to how they might affect the American postal system. While a product that ships from Barrie or Etobicoke probably won’t make a difference to the USPS workload, ordering from the U.S. might.

Before placing an order that’ll make its way across the border, try asking yourself a few questions: Do you need to buy this product right now? Waiting until after the election to place your order will help to minimize the risk of votes not arriving on time. If you do need the product soon, is there a similar alternative you can get from a Canadian retailer?  Bonus points if you can find it at a local store, which can save you shipping costs and help reduce emissions! Of course, if you do decide that you need to order the product from America, that’s completely okay – the idea is to reduce unnecessary purchasing so that there are fewer packages for the USPS to sort through, rather than eliminating all purchases completely.

A Chance to Shop Small

One more thing you may wish to keep in mind is whether or not you choose to purchase from small businesses. Unfortunately, many small businesses have suffered due to the pandemic, so if you do decide to place an order, you might want to try ordering from a smaller company – whether local or abroad. Large companies like Amazon can afford to offer consumers cheap prices, making their products more accessible, especially for those who do not have as much disposable income. However, if you are financially able to do so, you should consider purchasing from smaller businesses – in addition to supporting someone’s livelihood, you’ll find unique items and people who truly care about what they’re selling.  Of course, sometimes there are certain items that are significantly easier or cheaper to buy from large companies and that’s okay. Like before, the goal is to minimize unnecessary purchases from large companies, rather than eliminate them altogether. If we all work together, we can support small businesses and minimize the USPS’s workload, so vote with your dollar to ensure votes are counted.

Demetra is a third-year English and Cinema Studies student at the University of Toronto. She loves cooking, reading, and drinking way too much coffee.