*Indicates that the name of a source has been changed to protect their identity
On June 15, Louis DeJoy took over as the 75th Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service. DeJoy immediately implemented operational changes, which have drawn criticism from postal workers and the general public.
Changes have included eliminating overtime for postal employees and leaving behind late-arriving mail until the next day, which has caused delays in mail delivery, as well as a backlog of late mail.
Steven Roberts*, a letter carrier who works for a postal office located in the South Florida District, has reported changes made to the procedures they follow day-to-day.
“We had been previously instructed to case (office sort) our mail until a certain predetermined time… and then pull down (gather) the route & deliver that mail,” Roberts said. “As a result of these newly implemented orders we were leaving first and second class mail as well as political mail behind.”
Aiden Greenstein, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has personal experience with mail delays.
“The things that would normally take a few days to ship are now taking a week or more,” Greenstein said. “When I order shoes, there is a delay when they ship. They’re supposed to be here in under a week but now take a week or even longer.”
This continuous delay of packages poses a problem for people that use mail to get necessary goods — some Americans rely on the postal service to receive medication, groceries and other important items.
Jan Stowe, a nurse who treats combat veterans, receives her medication for muscle spasms and chronic back pain through the mail. In August, they were note delivered on time, which proved to be quite problematic.
Stowe’s medical situation caused her to experience pain and spasms, but circumstances could prove to be fatal for those that rely on medication to survive. This problem has only become worse due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has made it harder for people to go out to get their medication.
These delays in mail not only pose a risk to daily mail, but also the chance to vote in the upcoming presidential election. As Nov. 3 approaches, voters and voting watchdog groups are concerned that mail-in ballots will not reach their destination in time to be counted.
Some believe the Trump Administration bares responsibility for the problems with the postal service. On several occasions, President Donald Trump has expressed strong feelings about what the postal service should and should not be able to do, causing increased suspicions.
Trump has made multiple statements showing his distaste towards providing the postal service with any extra funding to cover the upcoming election, which has sparked an increase in mail volume because of the need for ballots.
“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes… They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview with CNN.
DeJoy has been accused of tampering with the postal service rules and regulations, on behalf of Trump.
To address these rumors, DeJoy spoke at the Congressional Hearing on Aug. 24. He dismissed all allegations against himself and stated what actions he has been taking for the postal service instead.
In response to the potential of delaying important mail in its process of being delivered, he simply stated, “We have accomplished this goal-as our on-time departures are approaching 98% and wasteful extra trips are down by over 70%.”
According to Roberts, the procedural changes made in June were undone shortly after Dejoy’s congressional hearing
Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, released a statement to ease people’s minds about the president’s possible attempt to interfere with the election.
“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their vote in a legitimate way, whether it’s the post office or anything else,” Meadows said in an interview with CNN.
With all of this speculation about who the cause of these changes is, the question still stands — Is there even a way to prevent any interference with the postal service?
This question is answered in the form of two different acts that have recently been proposed which attempt to counteract these issues — The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, and The Delivering For America Act.
The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act was sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar and specifically targets election procedures. This Act would require states to create a contingency plan for voting procedures in case of an emergency (such as a pandemic). The plans for each state must include an initiative to keep the poll workers safe during voting and must have an accessible way to let people apply for absentee voting or mail-in ballots.
The Delivering for America Act, which passed the House on August 22, 2020, was sponsored by Representative Carolyn Maloney and focuses specifically on the postal service. This Act states that between the time that the bill is enacted, to the time of the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, no changes shall be implemented that could affect the service quality or procedures of the postal service. It will also provide more funding to the Postal Service Fund and will implement a procedure to follow for handling election ballots/ mail-in voting.
The Delivering for America act was passed by the House of Representatives and is still pending in the Senate. The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act has been introduced, but has not yet been passed in the House or Senate.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the timely delivery of mail, not all voters are comfortable voting through the mail.
“I plan on voting at the polls because I don’t trust that a mail-in ballot will be counted. I want to see it go into its proper hands,” English teacher Stacey Lippel. “I do believe that mail delays could cause ballots to get into the wrong hands. I find it sad and disappointing, but I have no trust in our political system.”
As of late September, the procedures implemented by DeJoy in June were taken out of effect. Postal workers are no longer leaving behind political or first and second class mail, and are able to take overtime to deliver late packages. Things will stay this way for the foreseeable future, and the old procedures will most likely keep through the election.