It’s election season, the best time of the year! Only this year,on top of everything else 2020 has thrown our way, America is still struggling to fight off a pandemic. This undoubtedly puts a damper on things. With fears of contracting or spreading COVID-19, many people will likely opt to vote by mail this year. So in a time when it’s crucial that the United States Postal Service is running as smoothly as ever, it’s a bit disheartening to hear that it isn’t.
It has been in the news often in the past few months, but what exactly was— or still is— happening with the USPS?
President Trump has never been shy about anything, but he has been especially vocal about his belief that mail-in voting will cause a massive amount of voter fraud. While these claims are completely unsubstantiated, he continues to preach the same ideas. So, in May, he appointed a new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.
Louis DeJoy is a businessman, and at the time of being appointed postmaster general, he was the president of an investment bank in North Carolina. He is also known to be one of the most powerful donors and fundraisers for the Republican party. DeJoy has also previously been a finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and was named local finance chairman of the Republican National Convention that was planned to be held this year. DeJoy was appointed by President Trump to be Postmaster General, but he had to get confirmed by the senate and the USPS Board of Governors. The entirety of this board was appointed by President Trump. It is also important to note that DeJoy has exactly zero former experience within the postal service.
So now we know exactly who DeJoy is, but what has he done for the USPS since becoming postmaster general? Well…
DeJoy has stated that he hasn’t made any significant changes to USPS operations that would affect efficiency, but that doesn’t appear to be true. Since he took office, there have been about 57 changes made to the USPS, including letter-sorting machine reductions, cutting overtime for delivery drivers and removing mailboxes. These changes resulted in massive delays in mail delivery in mid-July. According to the Washington Post, the amount of first-class mail delivered on time the week of Oct. 16 was only 85.6 percent. This rate has been below 90 percent for 14 weeks in a row at this point, which is not normal.
Aside from the issue of mail-in voting, these slowdowns have caused a plethora of problems for many Americans. Many people rely on the postal service for essential items, like medications, and when they don’t arrive on time it can have serious implications on their health.
The House of Representatives called a Saturday session over the summer to discuss changes made to the USPS. They questioned DeJoy about the changes he has been making to the post office, which he denied doing. Congress has also been trying to get funding for the post office approved so they will be able to handle the influx of election mail. However, house republicans have made it difficult to get anything through. President Trump even said in an interview with Fox Business, “Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots … But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.” However, funding did eventually get approved in the CARES Act, so the USPS will at least have the resources they need.
On top of this, 21 states announced that they would be filing lawsuits to litigate action stopping these harmful changes to the USPS from being enacted. Some of these suits name DeJoy and the Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors Robert Duncan as defendants, and others name President Trump, the postal service and DeJoy. These lawsuits argue that these changes made to the postal services should have been presented to and approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, but they were instead pushed through quickly without the necessary approval.
In a statement in August, DeJoy announced that he would suspend all changes to USPS operations until after the election to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” However, it is unclear which exact measures he is suspending, as his statement is quite vague.
The future of the post office is unclear, considering all the changes DeJoy has lined up for after the election. But for now, the USPS is running as smoothly as it can, given the circumstances.