Louis DeJoy was nothing but a private equity ghoul and fundraiser for President Trump before he became Postmaster General in May. In his short tenure, the constitutionally mandated U.S. Postal Service has begun to “overhaul” its operations in a way that has slowed service and caused it to warn most states it may not be up to the task of handling election ballots at a time when mail-in voting is crucial. On Tuesday, DeJoy said that he’ll mostly suspend the changes he’d put in motion until after the presidential election in November.
DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday and House Oversight Committee next Monday. In the meantime, it seems he’s doing a little housekeeping in advance of the highly anticipated hearings. DeJoy assured Americans in a statement released this afternoon, that the Postal Service will be ready to handle election-related mail in the fall and that making sure the service maintains top standards is his “number one priority between now and election day.”
As reports of public mailbox removals and the dismantling of sorting machines became more frequent in recent weeks, the public began to wake up to the reality of the USPS’s rapid decline. This was troubling because we need the Postal Service to function in order to handle the election as the covid-19 pandemic makes in-person voting less realistic. It was also troubling because of President Trump’s frequent attempts to discredit the election that current polls showing him losing in November. People started putting 2 and 2 together, and a theory that dismantling the USPS in order to sabotage the election was born. Last Thursday, the President proceeded to confirm that he’s withholding money from the Postal Service in order to make increased mail-in voting impossible.
In his statement today, DeJoy said he’s suspending certain initiatives he’d put in place that he has framed as being driven by the desire to cut costs and make the USPS a profitable entity. The items being paused include:
- Retail hours at Post Offices will not change.
- Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.
- No mail processing facilities will be closed.
- And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.
That all seems fine and good, but DeJoy seems to leave open the option to reduce overtime pay, a factor that workers have identified as a major part of the slowdown in USPS delivery times. He also says processing equipment will stay where it is, so if it’s been removed, it will presumably stay removed.
That’s not to say that any of these changes were intended to harm the election. (Trump said that, not me.) It’s also not to say that DeJoy will honor his promises. The USPS has been avoiding questions on the topic for months, and it’s been opaque in offering guidance on how its changes are supposed to work.
You’re much better off listening to the words of DeJoy when he’s under oath before Congress. But even if he does hold off on further fuckery, the GOP still wants to privatize the Postal Service. So it’s probably a good thing that the Washington Post is reporting that at least 20 states are filing lawsuits against the USPS this week arguing that changes at the service “broke the law by making operational changes without first seeking approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission,” and that the alterations would “impede states’ ability to run free and fair elections.”
It’s unclear that a hobbled USPS would be good for Trump’s chances at the ballot box. Republicans, in general, tend to prefer low turnout elections, but we’re in uncharted waters and the party’s elderly base may stay away from polls over fears of the coronavirus. But if Trump intends to merely give the impression that the election results can’t be trusted, his efforts could be working. An NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll published on Monday found that only 45 percent of voters say they are confident in the 2020 total vote count. That’s down 14 percent from when the question was asked in 2016.