A mail carrier loads a truck for delivery at a U.S. post office in Torrance. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Glen A. Wilson High School

Opinion: The USPS — Fighting for democracy

The Republican party, and specifically President Trump, are attacking the U.S. Postal Service with the intensity of a gladiator entering the arena. Their audience? The countless Americans choosing to vote from the safety of their homes, rather than risking their lives at the polls this coming November.

In a devious plan to remain in office, the Postal Service is a pawn in a plot to win the election this coming November by using considerable amounts of voter suppression. That strategy is based on the idea that poor voter turnout usually ends in favor of the existing party: in this election, that would be the Republicans.

According to the U.S Election Assistance Commission, in the last presidential election about 1 in 4 voters voted by mail. Given the pandemic, those numbers will likely explode this coming November.

Who will be there, as they always have, to collect the ballots and deliver them safely in time for the election? The U.S. Postal Service: our longstanding pillar of democracy.

However, the Postal Service has been losing money and its former centrality in American culture ever since private delivery services like FedEx and UPS took to the stage. That’s where Postmaster Gen. Louis DeJoy comes in.

As of 2018, the Postal Service has accumulated $143 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities and debt. Slashing overtime and curbing late deliveries sounds like a typical business response to such turmoil: which is exactly what DeJoy has done given his background as a notorious businessman. A Trump donor and lead facilitator of fundraising efforts for the 2020 Republican National Convention, DeJoy is barely qualified to run the Postal Service and in the past ran a company that competed with the Postal Service.

Since coming to term, DeJoy has called for any undelivered mail to remain at the post office until the next day to save transportation costs. He has prohibited employees from working overtime. More importantly, DeJoy has removed mail sorting machines from post office facilities without an official explanation. The same machines, in fact, that should be sorting mailed election ballots this coming November.

Trump has echoed DeJoy’s apparent distaste for voting by mail while claiming that this election will be a breeding ground for fraud. “The fraud and abuse will be an embarrassment to our Country,” Trump tweeted. However, having little statistical evidence to support his statement, he has attacked another angle: the use of drop boxes.

Despite many local officials touting that it will be a safer alternative to in-person polls, Trump tweeted mid-August, “Some states use drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In ballots. So who is going to collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!”

According to US News, Representative Nancy Pelosi outwardly agreed that the administration’s actions threaten the “lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy.” Representatives like Pelosi have introduced the HEROES stimulus bill which includes a $25 million bailout fund for the Postal Service during this crucial time. However, the Republican-controlled Senate also introduced a stimulus bill called the HEALS Act which contains no funding for the post office.

On a similar note, the savings that DeJoy hopes will emerge from his policies will be minimal and at the price of universal service which is what the Postal Service stands on. Although election season is typically a divided time, what has always held this country together is the tradition of broadly agreeing for fairness. Sabotaging the election by playing on the fears and vulnerabilities of voters during the pandemic goes against tradition and is exactly what this administration has done.

The Postal Service is one of the longstanding pillars of democracy.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — a phrase from the Greek historian Herodotus chiseled into the granite of New York City’s general post office.

Although Louis DeJoy may go down in history as the assassin of the US Postal Service, chances are that he will be forgotten fairly quickly. What really is at stake here is America and its values. Starving the Postal Service of much-needed funds sends a clear message to those voting this coming November: a compromise on service and our democracy cannot stand.

Trump has politicized an institution that was founded to serve the people. As Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union said, according to NPR, “It’s not the United States postal business. It’s the United States Postal Service.”

In California, mail ballots must be postmarked on or before November 3, 2020, and received by your county elections office no later than November 20, 2020.