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USPS: Voter fraud or voter efficiency?

On Aug 24, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy sat before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He claimed that there was fake news he must dispel.

“First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment,” DeJoy stated. “Second, I did not direct the cut back on hours at any of our post offices. Finally, I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime.”

The United States Postal Service is prominent in the public conversation following many years of profit loss and comments made by President Trump about mail-in voting. News outlets have reported that mail is piling up and the USPS might not be able to handle a surge in mail-in ballots, but the USPS has denied these claims.

Since 2007, the USPS has lost more than $80 billion. In the first quarter of 2020 the losses of the USPS doubled to $4.5 billion, Reuters said.

The increased operating deficit of the postal service in recent years is due in large part to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. The PAEA required the USPS to create a fund to pay for the post-retirement healthcare costs of it’s employees for the next 75 years. Had it not been for this act the Postal Service would have turned a profit in each of the last six years, according the Institute for Policy Studies. Another area of profit loss the postal service has identified is increased overtime pay. 

“The OIG will soon report that over 4,000 people received more in overtime than they made in base salary pay in [the 2019 fiscal year] FY2019,” said a recent statement from the USPS newsroom.

DeJoy ordered instructions for carriers to leave behind mail that restricted their routes, put a prohibition on their overtime work, stopped hiring and is seeking early retirement from certain employees, the Guardian reported. Carriers from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois told the Guardian that packages are being significantly delayed.

The Postmaster General denied all of the above claims except the fact that packages were delayed.

“While we have had a temporary service decline which should not have happened, we are fixing this,” DeJoy said in Congress.

Another common concern was that the Postal Service does not have enough capacity to handle a potential surge in mail-in voting. In a press release they assured that they have more than enough capacity. The post office already delivers 433 million pieces of mail per day and USPS letter sorting machines are only used for about one-third of their available capacity.

President Trump claimed that he wants to block a bill that includes $25 billion for the post office and $3.5 billion for universal mail-in voting. 

“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in votes,” Trump said. “It will be the greatest rigged election in history. It will be the greatest fraud ever perpetrated other than perhaps what they did to my campaign, when they spied on my campaign.”

According to the Chicago Tribune one of the practices that President Trump fears Democrats will use to their advantage is “ballot harvesting.” Ballot harvesting is a law that allows third-parties to collect ballots from voters. More than half of states allow it. The idea is that by allowing ballots to touch more hands there is increased potential for fraud. Additionally ballots could potentially be mailed to the wrong address and filled out by ballot harvesters. Allowing people to assist voters in turning in their ballots has typically been used to help tribal and rural communities according to Nevada’s Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson.

Mail-in voting could also pose issues with potentially unseen election fraud or additional burdens placed on the voter. Absentee voting often requires a signature from a notary public and a valid drivers license in order to vote. Mail-in voting removes these burdens, but in doing so creates an additional risk for voter fraud.

Mail-in voting neither improves the presidential candidate Joe Biden’s chance of winning or increases voter fraud according to a policy study from the Brookings Institute. Though Republicans fear that mail-in voting would help Democrats get more votes from certain demographics, Republicans seem to do just as well with mail-in voting as it benefits senior citizens who tend to vote Republican. Whether mail-in voting leads to voter fraud or not, the USPS claims they are ready for mail-in ballots.