Amy Dwyer discusses the upcoming US presidential election.
Trump’s attack on the United States Postal Service should be taken as a direct assault on liberal democracy in America. Given the coronavirus pandemic there has been a significant demand for postal voting in the US and Donald Trump himself has previously voted by mail recently. However, Trump has seen the financial struggles of the USPS, due largely to the cost-saving measures implemented by his administration and political appointment, Dejoy, the postmaster general as a way to restrict postal voting and ensure his re-election. He has seized the opportunity to blame Democrats and the USPS so that if postal voting is delayed, he has a scapegoat ready and waiting.
The government’s refusal to allocate adequate funding for the Postal Service comes after repeated false claims by Trump that there is extensive and inherent fraud in postal voting and that there is real danger in voting this way. What he fails to mention is that he voted by mail himself and so clearly sees no issue with it. Not only should this be publicly condemned, as it seeks to misinform the public on electoral processes but it is also incredibly misleading as he has voted this way previously and so clearly sees no issue with voting by mail. The simple fact that Trump is against proactively distributing ballots to voters demonstrates a clear assumption, at least within the Trump administration and arguably throughout the wider Republican Party, that repressing votes is beneficial. Any party, let alone a major party, that actively seeks to deny citizens the right to vote when they are eligible should be held accountable as a core priority for the legislature.
We have already seen a serious lack of polling stations, particularly in states with high proportions of African Americans and Latinos. This alone is likely to increase the demand for mail-in voting, not taking into consideration the extra demand for postal votes due to the coronavirus pandemic. It follows then, that communities of colour are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the postal service delays. It is also important not to forget rural America, where often the USPS is the only postal service that operates. These areas will also be affected more than urban areas by removing access to postal voting.
Trump’s attacks on the USPS refer to the $25 billion bill introduced by Democrats, arguing that this financial request is from the Democratic Party. This is not the case, it is the USPS themselves and even some of Trump’s political appointments that have given the Democrats this figure. Stimulus funding for the USPS has over 90% approval rating among American citizens. Trump clearly sees this as a threat to his plans to repress voting and so continue to make false claims linking the USPS and fraudulent voting.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy backtracked on changes to postal services and delayed them until after the 2020 presidential election, following 20 Democratic states announcing plans to sue USPS for delays to election mail. DeJoy has repeatedly argued that changes to services are necessary to improve the dire financial situation at present. It is difficult to accept this reasoning given the concurrence with Trump’s Twitter rants about mail-in voting. In addition, there is the debate as to whether the USPS should exist to make a profit and the notion that it is actually cash positive in comparison to recent fiscal years.
Even if we ignore the clear moves against democracy across the United States, DeJoy’s brazen changes have profound and far-reaching consequences for Americans. It is clear that Trump’s political appointments have no problems crossing lines and impacting lives of ordinary citizens for political point scoring. Across several states it has been noted that life-saving medicine is being delayed weeks, with patients struggling without access who have never seen delays before. More patients have been accessing their medication via mail-service pharmacies and so this will have a particularly pronounced impact.
Regardless of whether Trump favours mail-in voting or not, he cannot and should not be allowed to so publicly try to repress voters. Although DeJoy has recently admitted that changes to processes have had “unintended consequences”, he still argued that they were necessary. Repressing votes to save money and ensure that Trump retains his presidency is not necessary. It should and needs to be avoided. The Postal Service has already warned 46 states and the District of Columbia that it can’t guarantee mail-in ballots cast for the November election will arrive in time to be counted. More than 65,000 posted ballots were rejected during the 2020 primaries because they arrived too late. The seriousness of this and its potential impact on the November presidential elections cannot be understated and if Americans cannot rely on the postal service to deliver their votes on time then Democrats need to ensure Trump can’t suppress votes and make sure there are enough polling stations and that they are accessible to all.
Amy Dwyer is studying for an MA in Politics and is an ambassador at 50:50 Parliament. She is also Women’s Officer for the North West Young Fabians.
She tweets at @AmyDwyer23