This August, as I watched Louis DeJoy testify at the Congressional Oversight Committee hearings about changes he brought to the US Postal Service, a part of me wanted to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I kept asking myself, “How could one person, even if he is a logistics expert, undermine the smooth operation of the oldest US government agency in our country’s history? Especially one that means so much to so many Americans!” Of course, given Trump’s track record of installing agency heads—whose only purpose seems to be to destroy the agencies they are empowered to run—and his declaration that mail-in ballots and a smoothly running Postal Service could cost him the election, why should I have thought otherwise?
Notwithstanding the considerable conflicts of interest and clearly partisan leanings of DeJoy, I could hear some logic in his explanations. Why he enacted operational changes to an agency that has been in financial difficulty, despite its reputation for good and rapid service, made some sense. But to do this during a pandemic, when so many Americans are relying on postal delivery for everything from food to medication to checks seemed ill-advised if not clearly suspect. And as the horror stories started rolling across my Twitter feed, many from postal employees, so did the photos, even of the surreptitious removal of postboxes.
DeJoy continues to vehemently deny that any of the changes he instituted were done to deliberately slow the mail. Watching him testify gave me the idea that he really just botched it up rather than orchestrate a concerted, clandestine effort to slow the mail during an election year. My hypothesis is backed by an excellent investigative article in the Los Angeles Times that reveals the complexities of a system that DeJoy, despite his logistics experience, surely has not had time to fully understand. While the decommissioning of 700 sorting machines in areas of the country that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 makes for spectacular headlines, the article analyzes how his seemingly simple act of trying to make the trucks run on time was worse for delivery service.
Whether or not your thoughts lean toward the conspiratorial regarding the many operational and physical changes DeJoy has brought to the USPS, both public outcry and House Democrats’ quick action, through oversight, have made a difference. House members returned early from their August vacations not only to bring public attention to the problems, but also to slow or block some of the changes until after the pandemic and the election are over.
The latest good news is that a federal judge in Washington State has now blocked the disastrous “Trucks must leave on time” orders that were actually slowing rather than speeding deliveries. This is a key ruling as the injunction was sought by more than a dozen states. US District Court Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian did not mince words. He was convinced that the changes were, in fact, politically motivated.
And in Michigan, a state Donald Trump won in 2016 by only 10,000 votes, a new ruling has stated that all ballots postmarked by the evening of November 3 are eligible and must be counted, even if they show up days later. Which brings me to a crucial, final point.
Whatever DeJoy was thinking, and even if his actions were fully nefarious and intended to dismantle the USPS, the fact is, the United States Postal Service is still up and running. Time is tight, and the mail is moving very slowly. Don’t think for a moment that if you are voting absentee that you still have plenty of time. You DON’T! Get your ballot, mark it carefully, and get it to a drop box or mail box as quickly as you possibly can, at least two weeks before November 3 for mailing.
Getting your ballot in immediately is especially important for those of us who live overseas, including all active-duty members of the US Armed Forces. You can request your ballot at the Federal Voting Assistance Program and find other valuable information. Once again, do it right now as November 3 is less than a month away.
And we all need to remember to be patient on election night and for days afterward. Because of all the mail-in ballots that will need to be counted, along with ballots cast on Election Day, we surely won’t know the final results by that evening or even the next day. And judging by Trump’s repeated and brazen false declarations, as well as the legal positioning and wrangling by both Democrats and Republicans, this election may be the most contested in US history! It could take a week or longer until all the votes are counted. Joe Biden must not concede even if Trump seems to jump to an early lead; we must not lose hope. Whether we do so by mail this year or do so in person, donning a mask and gloves to slow the spread of COVID-19, the most important thing we can do this November . . . is VOTE!
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