Ahead of the November 3 elections, President Donald Trump of the United States has again restated his opposition to mail-in voting, insisting that the process would be a catastrophe for the election.
The United States Postal Service is popularly known for delivering mail despite snow, rain or heat.
Millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail due to the coronavirus.
Trump has leveled an unprecedented attack at the USPS, opposing efforts to give the cash-strapped agency more money, as part of a big new virus-related stimulus package, even as changes there have caused widespread delays in mail delivery.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday, adding, “but if they don’t get those… that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
The matter has sparked fierce Democratic pushback — the postal service being one government agency that directly touches every American.
With some states expanding mail-in options because of the pandemic, an estimated three-quarters of Americans will be able to vote from home this fall.
Such widespread mail-in voting, Trump said Saturday, would be a “catastrophe” — an assertion contested by many election experts and by top Democrats, who have pushed back forcefully.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi, top Senate Democrat Charles Schumer and others called Sunday for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a recent Trump appointee, to appear Aug. 24 before an “urgent hearing” of the House oversight committee.
They said in a statement that DeJoy — “a Trump mega-donor – has acted as an accomplice in the President’s campaign to cheat in the election, as he launches sweeping new operational changes that degrade delivery standards.”
Some Democrats have called for the House to return early from summer recess to take action to protect the postal service.
“This is a crisis for American democracy,” progressive senator Bernie Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Democrats expect to use the issue to mobilize voters when the party opens its national convention on Monday — in an unprecedented virtual format — with former vice president Joe Biden slated to accept the party’s nomination on Thursday. Republicans follow a week later.
On Sunday, President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the Democrats could yet obtain more postal funding if they are ready to make a deal on the stimulus package.
“If my Democrat friends are all upset about this, come back to Washington,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Put the postal funding in there” along with aid to small businesses. “We’ll pass it tomorrow.”
Trump has long been a critic of the postal service, but his latest charges come as he trails Biden in most polls. A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey shows the former vice president with a nine-point lead over Trump among registered voters.
Amid intense anger over the postal issue, protesters on Saturday gathered at DeJoy’s Washington home, blaring horns and banging pots in anger.
But USPS spokesman David Partenheimer attributed changes at the agency to its poor financial state.
“We are not slowing down election mail or any other mail,” he told AFP.
“The Postal Service is in a financially unsustainable position, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume and a broken business model.”
He called on Congress and regulators to enact reforms.
Meanwhile, in Congress… –
But Congress remains deadlocked over a new stimulus bill to follow the $2.2 trillion package passed in March.
The president said candidly in April that mail-in voting “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” He has repeatedly described such ballots as prone to fraud.
A study this year by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that “it is… more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud.”
In an interview, American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein blamed the nationwide slowdowns in mail deliveries on measures implemented by DeJoy, who has pledged to reform the agency.
Dimondstein said overtime for postal workers was recently reduced and 40,000 workers have had to quarantine because of COVID-19, creating delays.
“But the same work is still there to get done.”
– States act –
As concerns mount over the USPS’s ability to handle a surge in ballots, states are working to ensure their residents’ votes count.
Pennsylvania this week asked its supreme court to push back its deadline for accepting mail-in ballots.
In a court filing, it cited a letter from a USPS official to the state warning of “a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted.”
The Washington Post reported on Friday similar notices were sent to 45 other states and the District of Columbia.
Dimondstein assailed Trump’s “brazen challenge to the democratic right — that somehow he’s going to starve this institution to suppress the vote.”
“Congress needs to act, and they need to act soon,” he said.