There are mounting concerns over being able to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election — and for good reason. President Donald Trump has continued his attacks on the United States Postal Service, stripping it of funding and admitting to wanting to prevent nationwide mail-in voting in the coming months. But just one day after confessing to a plan to sabotage the USPS ahead of the election, photos of mailboxes being removed in cities across the country have gone viral on social media.
Residents of Portland and Eugene, Oregon were shocked to learn at least 31 mailboxes had been taken off the streets on Thursday. The same was happening in New York City, and several towns across Montana, without any official communication from the Postal Service with state officials or residents about why the mailboxes were being removed or plans to accommodate people who rely on them.
Montana Sens. Steven Daines and Jon Tester are asking USPS for more information by August 18 about why the collection boxes were removed, and how it will address accessibility issues, citing the needs of veterans, the elderly, and rural communities across the state who rely on USPS mail services. Likewise, the senators say the removal of collection boxes could “result in delayed mail delivery and reduced mail options for Montanans.”
When reached for comment about the mailbox removals in Oregon, Ernie Swanson, a USPS spokesperson told The Oregonian the decision was made as a result of a decline in mail, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic. “That translates to less mail in collection boxes,” said Swanson.
But this is not the first time in recent weeks that a conservative government official or agency used COVID-19 as a reason to curtail the rights of Americans. Now that Trump's made clear his intention to use the post office as a means for election interference, people aren’t buying that explanation.
With the Trump administration escalating its position against expanding mail-in voting in November, the timing of this latest assault on USPS is impeccable. In the last week, USPS workers and union officials came forward with reports that at least 19 mail sorting machines from five processing facilities nationwide had either already been removed or were scheduled for removal, VICE's Motherboard reported.
As of Friday, the USPS had also begun sending letters to states across the country — starting with Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan — warning their ballots wouldn’t be delivered in time to be counted toward the presidential election, Weijia Jiang, a CBS News White House correspondent, reported Friday. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that a total of 46 states could face mail-in-voting delays, which would result in a mass of discounted ballots.
"The USPS is sending letters to some states warning mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted in the Presidential election because their deadlines are too tight," Jiang wrote on Twitter. She also noted that among the originally targetted states, all three were "critical swing states."
Trump’s blatant attacks on USPS this week should be cause for concern. Spokespeople for the institution say mailboxes were removed either due to a decline in mail, the coronavirus pandemic, or locations with duplicate boxes. But the move appears to be yet another escalation in the president’s continued efforts to prevent USPS from receiving the $25 billion in federal funding it will need to ensure everyone’s ballots are counted this November. That alone should sound the alarms for what’s to come this Fall.