Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been called to testify before Congress about new rules that took effect in July that have slowed the delivery of mail to most of the country, especially in rural areas. The post office eliminated overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and now mandates that mail be kept until the next day if distribution centers are running late.
The perpetually broke agency has lost more than $77 billion over the last decade and it’s getting worse. The USPS ran a deficit of nearly $9 billion last year — a 125 percent increase from the previous year.
It’s not just absentee ballots that are at risk of being delayed. Many rural people get their medicine via the U.S. mail and the delivery of government checks is also affected.
But the post office doesn’t have the cash and DeJoy has been put in the impossible position of maintaining the same level of service with less money. Since he’s not a magician — or Congress — who can magically make money appear, he is well and truly stuck.
The Senate inquiry comes as lawmakers increasingly focus on the Postal Service, which is reeling from mail delays and financial problems at a time when record numbers of mail ballots are expected in the November presidential election because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, a vocal critic of the Postal Service, contended Wednesday that “the Post Office doesn’t have enough time” to handle a significant increase in mail-in ballots. “I mean you’re talking about millions of votes. .. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.″
But Democrats refuse to admit they’re wrong and Trump is right, so the mail-in ballot procedures will continue. The potential for the disenfranchisement of millions of voters is real — whether you believe Trump’s claims of potential fraud or not.
“For 245 years, the Postal Service has worked to provide reliable, consistent and on-time delivery that keeps Americans connected no matter where they live – especially in rural areas,” Peters said. “Unfortunately, in recent weeks, I’ve heard firsthand from constituents, postal workers and local officials in Michigan who have encountered problems with the timely and dependable service they count on to conduct business, get prescription medications and critical supplies and even exercise their right to vote.″
Democrats have pushed for $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on a huge COVID-19 response bill. The figure is down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure. Key Republicans whose rural constituents are especially reliant on the post office support the idea.
Whether you believe the post office should be privatized or not is irrelevant at this point. Nothing can be done about it before the election. And simply reversing the new rules will not significantly impact mail delivery by Election Day. Besides, timely delivery is only one problem with a mail-in ballot election. In addition to the fraud potential, there are millions of people unfamiliar with the absentee ballot who will fill it out incorrectly. State and local election authorities are totally unprepared — and not likely to be prepared — for the onslaught that is coming via the mail.
There will be snafus in counting, sorting, lost, damaged, and late ballots that are present, whether the bulk of ballots are mailed in or not. The bottom line is that the post office isn’t ready, election officials aren’t ready, and the voters aren’t ready for the catastrophe that will happen on Election Day — and beyond.