Written by Nishant Kumar
A voting process that is safe and available to American voters is an important issue for the upcoming 2020 presidential election amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) will play an essential role in safely delivering and collecting ballots for millions of Americans in the upcoming election. In fact, the USPS collected 31 million ballots for the 2018 elections through mail order services. However, recent actions from the Trump Administration indicate interest in major defunding or complete removal of this federal government organization.
The Trump Administration’s interest in defunding the USPS is supported by Republican lawmakers who oppose aid that would provide 25 billion dollars to the USPS. Democratic lawmakers argue the funding is necessary to provide mail order services to Americans for the upcoming presidential election. Additionally, Trump recently appointed Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. Since assuming the position in June, DeJoy transformed the USPS by reorganizing leadership, eliminating employee overtime for more than 600,000 workers, and removing equipment such as mail-sorting machines from postal facilities across the country.
After digging deeper, DeJoy’s background gives clues into his and the Trump Administration’s intent to defund the USPS. Before his appointment, DeJoy served as director of XPO Logistics, a direct competitor to the USPS, until 2018 and still has millions of dollars invested in the company. Defunding the USPS would increase demand for the private mail services that XPO Logistics offers, allowing DeJoy to reap millions in profits.
The combination of opposition to aid for the USPS and personal interests of Postmaster General DeJoy imply an interest in defunding the USPS which raises the greater question of why the Trump Administration is interested in this effort. According to President Trump and his administration, an election process involving mail-order voting hurts both Trump’s re-election as well as Republicans across the board.
Analytics support the Trump administration’s assertion in regards to mail order voting. For instance, more than 58% of Biden supporters intend to vote by mail order services compared to 17% of Trump supporters. Furthermore, 48% of Hispanics and 62% of Asian Americans, ethnic minority groups with voters expected to primarily support Biden and the Democratic party in the upcoming election, plan to vote by mail order services. Therefore, limiting USPS mail order services could hinder millions of Americans from voting and decrease voter turnout, especially from Biden supporters. Voters could fill out their ballots in-person, but the voting option involves large gatherings at the poll centers which poses a significant health risk in this pandemic.
This issue could be even more controversial if the Trump Administration and the Republican party intends to defund the USPS for the main purpose of deterring voter turnout from Biden supporters, as this effort is a direct act of voter oppression.
Beyond voter suppression, defunding the USPS also negatively impacts the healthcare system in noteworthy ways, affecting millions of Americans beyond the election in November.
Mail-order services from the USPS deliver prescriptions to ensure Americans receive reliable patient care at home. For example, the Department of Veteran Affairs, another federal government organization, relies on the USPS to deliver 80 percent of outpatient prescriptions via mail order services.
During the current pandemic, the USPS has proved to be an essential service because mail order services provide nearly 24% of all Americans their prescription medications and serve as a safe method for Americans significantly at risk for COVID-19 to receive prescriptions to manage their chronic diseases.
Additionally, mail order prescriptions are more affordable for Americans. As a result of the high-purchasing volume of prescriptions, mail service pharmacies secure lower prices for prescription medications, and the customers ultimately benefit from the savings.
From voter suppression to increasing healthcare costs to straining a system that provides medications to Americans in a consistent and timely manner, defunding the United States Postal Service has major impacts on all Americans for the upcoming presidential election, a global pandemic, and beyond. All in all, the USPS is evidently an essential government organization that deserves full funding to serve Americans dutifully by collecting their ballots for this momentous election, delivering their medications during this chaotic pandemic, and more for generations to come.
Edited by Adityasai Koneru and Emily Leventhal