Source: AP News
Written by Chu Yao Quan

The United States Postal Service

In the United States, postal voting, otherwise known as mail-in voting, allows voters to receive and cast their ballots via mail. Postal voting constituted 23.6% of all votes cast in the 2016 Presidential Election, and that number is set to double to nearly 80 million votes for the 2020 elections. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is responsible for delivering all these ballots in a timely fashion.

President Trump has been hostile to the idea of postal voting, claiming that it will be rampant with voter fraud and more importantly, disadvantaging him and Republican candidates. Back in April, Trump threatened to veto the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out USPS.

Furthermore, the US Congress has also chosen not to forgive some US$11 billion in outstanding debt despite calls by congressional Democrats to support the agency. In an apparent acknowledgement, Trump also said that without the additional money, USPS won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the surge in ballots, it appears that USPS is capable of managing that surge. In the week before Christmas 2019, the USPS processed and delivered nearly 2.5 billion pieces of mail, or about 500 million cards and letters a day, not to mention packages.

Its capability, however, is hampered by the lack of financial resources. USPS has long been plagued by multiple years of losses, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a sharp reduction in mail delivery, pushing the agency into even more dire straits. USPS has been predicted to declare bankruptcy by early 2021, even if package volumes were to return to pre-pandemic levels.

To make matters worse, USPS’ postmaster general was recently replaced by General Louis DeJoy, a Republican political donor who had no experience working at the post office. Since taking office, DeJoy enacted operational changes to USPS as “cost-cutting” measures, such as limiting overtime hours, removing letter-processing equipment and charging more per package. With some 40,000 USPS workers quarantined at home, these changes are projected to result in ballooning voting costs for state governments and further delivery delays.

What’s next?

Several Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation into the new changes that have caused delivery delays, while the US House of Representatives also approved an additional $25 billion in funding for USPS. USPS responded by announcing plans to shelve their cost-cutting initiatives until after the Presidential Election. It remains to be seen if all postal votes can be successfully delivered and counted before 3 November.

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