Amid everything else — the deadly pandemic, the November election, the U.S.’s ongoing reckoning with its racism — people online (and IRL) are deeply concerned about the United States Postal Service. And for good reason.
Here’s the short explanation: President Donald Trump is actively gutting the vital service in an apparent effort to making voting by mail more difficult. But, of course, it isn’t exactly that simple.
The USPS had been mired in financial woes for at least a decade. Last year it reported losses of nearly $9 billion. This USA Today piece does a good job of walking through the financials, but it’s safe to say things got even worse when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
And Trump has gone out of his way to avoid helping. Here’s what you need to know and why everyone online is talking about the Postal Service (of all things).
The mail-in ballot situation
The president, without evidence, has expressed concerns that mail-in ballots — something super helpful during a pandemic where voting in person could be dangerous — could somehow lead to voter fraud. And, of course, mailed ballots rely on the USPS. Despite these claims, both President Trump and first lady Melania Trump requested mail-in ballots for Florida’s primary election on Tuesday.
Trump has opposed funding that would provide election aid and bailout to the Postal Service amid the ongoing pandemic. He also flatly admitted he was purposefully hurting the postal service to affect the election.
“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 said on Thursday in an on Fox Business. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Trump’s gutting has had the desired result. The Washington Post reported on Friday that the Postal Service has warned 46 states and D.C. that not all ballots cast by mail will arrive in time to be counted. That’s clearly a major, major problem, especially for a country that is used to receiving the results of an election on the night of Election Day.
It’s also worth noting that high turnout would typically be something that would help presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden versus Trump. Even former President Barack Obama has jumped into the fray, saying the Trump administration was gutting an essential service to suppress the vote.
Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2020
A new leader
Some of the USPS’s woes have also come from the Trump administration installing Louis DeJoy as the Postmaster General. DeJoy is Republican megadonor and businessman who reportedly has massive financial ties with a USPS contractor — leading to folks raising questions about the ethics of such an arrangement. DeJoy is also the first Postmaster General in decades who doesn’t have a deep background in the postal service.
Since taking over, DeJoy has instituted big cost-reducing changes. As Fortune laid out in detail, he cut overtime, instituted a hiring freeze on managers, sought an early-retirement plan for some workers, and replaced 23 executives. This has all added up to massive delays in mail getting out across the country.
“If we cannot deliver all the mail due to call offs or shortage of people and you have no other help, the mail will not go out,” read an internal USPS memo, according to Fortune.
DeJoy, a Trump ally, doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the widespread problems with the mail.
NPR reported Friday that a bipartisan group of secretaries of state, the officials tasked with running elections, this week requested a meeting with DeJoy. He hasn’t responded.
There’s been some other strange stuff going on with the mail, too. Most notably: Mailboxes are maybe disappearing.
People in Eugene, Oregon and Portland — the city where Trump unleashed unidentified federal agents on protesters — took concerning photos of mailboxes being trucked away. Oregon has been a vote-by-mail only state since 2000.
As The Cut covered in detail, USPS spokespeople gave conflicting answers about what, exactly, was going on with the mailboxes. One person said they were removing boxes in spots where they were doubled up due to declining mail volume. Another person said the boxes were being replaced by new models.
Similarly, Vice’s Motherboard reported that mail sorting machines were being removed from USPS processing facilities across the country without any explanation. That’s especially concerning because, in many cases, those machines would sort through ballots.
“Multiple sources within the postal service told Motherboard they have personally witnessed the [mail sorting] machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster. USPS did not respond to a request for comment.” https://t.co/urN1TypZJs
— Pema Levy (@pemalevy) August 14, 2020
The internet is mad
OK, so now that you have a rundown on what’s happening with the USPS, it’s clear why people are upset. Democratic leadership has called on Trump to stop his “assault on the Postal Service” but people are looking for more.
I have been calling and emailing around the country regarding what, exactly is happening with the Postal Service, and I am alarmed. The delays are real, and they really are dismantling and removing machines. Also, importantly, Trump admitted what he’s doing yesterday.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) August 14, 2020
Another day in the life of Trump: He makes a racist attack against Kamala Harris. He undermines democracy by defunding the postal service and preventing mail-in ballots. He wants to use the White House lawn for his Republican convention. Trump must be defeated.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 14, 2020
USPS has been trending on Twitter as people look for ways to fix the issues and ensure the election is carried out fairly.
to be honest though, write a letter to your friends! send a care package! support USPS! 💙
— maia (@mxmtoon) August 14, 2020
Yesterday that horror admitted he’s holding up a stimulus bill to help our Postal Service. OUR Postal Service, not his! He’s trying to fold, spindle AND mutilate our election!
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) August 14, 2020
People are even going as far as trying to find ways to funnel money to the USPS to help the service function properly.
I mean, hey, if it works for influencers, why not the USPS?