Many battleground states in the run-up to the presidential election will be sending out mail-in ballots this month.
The U.S. Postal Service is caught in the crosshairs of a major political battle over the integrity of the mail-in system. Despite contradictory evidence, President Trump has said voting by mail will result in a corrupt election.
This dispute comes as the USPS struggles with deeper funding problems. Newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump's campaign, has issued guidelines that, among other things, take away overtime for workers. The overtime system is important in order for workers to complete their delivery routes.
American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein says the union opposes DeJoy’s decision and any other measures that slow down mail delivery.
DeJoy “needs to learn it's not called the ‘United States Postal Business.’ It's called the United States Postal Service,” Dimondstein says. “And that's for a reason — service should always come first.”
Dimondstein insists USPS is structurally capable of taking on mail-in voting because they’ve been “doing it for generations” with states that have allowed vote-by-mail, by law, for years now.
He says the Postal Service’s massive capacity paired with the fact 31 million people successfully voted by mail in 2018 proves that they can get the job done.
USPS has also proudly handled the president’s absentee or mail-in ballots over the years, he says.
The claim that mail-in voting is corrupt is a fraudulent one, Dimondstein says.
“It's just not the case,” he says. “And it's not the history and it's not the truth.”
If there are mail delivery slowdowns because of DeJoy’s new directives, Dimondstein says it won’t “change the integrity of the system.”
He says states will need to get ballots by mail to voters in a timely fashion, and voters will need to be cognizant about getting their vote in sooner rather than later. Plus, he says, a lot of states postmark ballots, which means the ballot will eventually be counted.
“On the one hand, it's troubling that mail is going to slow down for everything we do, including balloting,” he says. “On the other hand, the states are fully capable of taking into account the speed in the mail.”
The new postmaster general [PMG] says the recent guideline changes have to happen as a cost cutting measure. In the next round of pandemic relief, Democrats are requesting additional support for mail-in voting, which would offer some relief to the postal service.
In all, USPS is in a crisis. COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their financial woes as mail volume plummeted by 30%, Dimondstein says. The economic squeeze escalated as they scrambled to ensure postal workers’ health and safety. And now, questions loom about mail-in voting come November.
Although USPS is an independent agency of the federal government, the Postal Service does not run on tax dollars. It’s funded through revenue from postage and postal services, Dimondstein says.
Congress should have helped the Postal Service in March with the CARES Act, he says. USPS asked for $25 billion in appropriated taxpayer money as emergency funding. A US Postal Service spokesperson confirmed to CNN that they have not yet received the funding they requested.
“What we say to the PMG is let's help get this emergency funding. Let's get through this COVID-19 pandemic and get back to doing what we do best,” he says. “But the last thing you do is cut and slash, drive away business, drive away revenue, lower people's confidence in something that they use in many different ways [and] is very dear to the heart of the American people.”
Postal workers are deemed essential in the midst of the pandemic. They’re out delivering mail — rain, shine or global health crisis.
Dimondstein says their pride and dedication to the USPS has been unwavering during these pressing times. Their mission — “never leave any mail behind” — remains at the core of their work, he says, which is why the new directives from the postmaster general are frustrating to him and the union.
“Now we have policies from this new PMG that says, hey, if it's another 10 minutes to get everything in that truck, it's not going when that trucks leaving. If it's six o'clock in the morning and that mail needs another 10 minutes to get in there, sorry, it's going to wait till the next day,” he says. “That's counter to our DNA.”
This segment aired on August 4, 2020.