The Trump era has been a daily exercise in media literacy. One of the challenges has been sorting through negative information about the administration to determine what is true vs what is untrue as well as what things are disturbing, but also mundane. Several times now a negative story has circulated which has been troubling, but also something common to most recent presidencies. Going to go over some of what I’ve seen about the USPS and which parts are genuinely troubling and which parts are not.
An image of a large number of stacked post office boxes behind a fence went viral as evidence of the Post Office taking boxes off the street in Wisconsin. This image IS of post office boxes stacked at a company. And they were stacked there because that company refurbishes and refinishes Post Office boxes before returning them back into use. In other words, this was completely innocent and routine.
Now have there been collection boxes removed? Yes, absolutely. However, that too is routine. As population density shifts, the USPS removes boxes from low use locations and moves them to higher use areas, or removes them all-together when the need for a drop-off location lowers. DeJoy has said this process, though routine, has been halted until after the election. There MAY have been nefarious intent in some of these removals, but that would be nearly impossible to prove as having removals happening is routine.
Has USPS been removing sorting capacity to target swing states? Not at all. They HAVE been removing sorting machines. DeJoy’s defense is that these are simply not needed. He is, at least in part, correct. Lost in this discussion is the fact that mail volume has been steadily decreasing for decades, at least for flat mail. (Packages are a different beast but also do not run through these sorting machines). With email the norm for most people and billing for nearly everything going online, flat mail simply isn’t used as much. So there is justification for reducing sorting volume. HOWEVER postal employees across the country have said these cuts are too deep. Though DeJoy halted the removal of the machines, the USPS director of maintenance ordered facilities nationwide to not reconnect any of them. In Seattle and Dallas so far, postal workers are ignoring that directive and reconnecting decommissioned machines.
As for targeting states specifically for removal, absolutely no, that isn’t happening. There is a strong correlation between the number of machines removed and Democrats living in the area they were removed from. But there’s a reason for that – urban population centers are where Democrats live. Quite simply, more machines have been removed from large cities because there were more machines in those large cities to begin with.
Has the mail slowed down because of DeJoy’s changes? YES. Absolutely yes. DeJoy testified this week and the metric he continually cited was the number of USPS trucks leaving on time. This is a great metric for measuring costs if you’re a first year business student. It’s a terrible metric for measuring efficiency. Why? Because they’ve achieved the goal of having more trucks leave on time but sending them out without some of their mail. That mail then gets to sit and wait for another truck instead of a slight delay and sending the truck out at capacity. The delays are real and they’re causing problems, like animals dying and medication facing long delays. There are Republicans in Congress arguing there are no delays and this is a conspiracy theory. Per the USPS’s own internal documents, they’re wrong.
How much of what’s happened has been done intentionally to alter the election? Here’s the answer no one will like – it isn’t possible to tell. Does Trump want to limit mail-in voting? Of course he does. He’s been running a one man marketing campaign against it all year, yelling about non-existent fraud and insisting absentee voting and mail-in voting are different things. They are not. But it isn’t clear how many of the USPS changes are being done intentionally with that goal vs being done because of incompetent management. And ultimately, we aren’t likely to know.
So Trump and the GOP aren’t taking direct action to limit mail-in voting? Oh, they are! While we can’t be sure if the USPS changes happening are due to this, the Trump campaign and the Republicans have filed lawsuits in multiple states to limit mail-in voting. This follows a long history of Republicans attempting to limit the number of people voting. What’s peculiar though is there isn’t actually any evidence that increased mail-in voting helps Democrats. In several key states, the party realizes this and has to push back against Trump’s attacks on the process. Florida comes to mind where the senior citizen vote, a huge mail-in voting bloc, is key to any Republican victory.
How is this going to affect the election? If you have a definitive answer for this, could I get some lotto numbers from you? The USPS sent a letter to nearly every state warning that the current slowdowns could potentially mean votes not being counted before local deadlines. However, several states are reacting to that by altering their deadlines and procedures. The House just today passed a bill to shore up the postal service’s funding and roll back several of the delay causing changes DeJoy implemented.
Has USPS been hiding the extent of the problem? Yep. Multiple stories now about sorting centers hiding how bad things are from Congressman. This may not matter at this point as the House investigation has hard data on how bad the delays have been.
In summation are there changes happening at USPS which can affect the election? Yes. Does the president want mail-in voting limited? Yes. Are the changes being done intentionally to harm the election? That’s difficult to say either way. Are actions being taken to remedy these issues? Yes.
What should you do? This one’s easy. Check your registration. If you message Resistbot on Facebook “check registration,” the bot will look you up and walk you through registering if you aren’t. If you’re voting by mail, request your ballot (if required) AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE and return it as early as possible.