What will mail-in voting do for America’s upcoming president?
Several states are going for elections, which are drastically different in the current year. So, will mail-in ballots can be the game-changer?
In Columbus, Ohio, a U.S. postal worker rolled in May. The reason behind this was he was stopped while hoisting blue mailboxes, which are iconic into a flatbed truck. George Floyd died under the knees of Minneapolis police, and protests were going on for this. The same protest seems to have taken a highly destructive turn the previous night.
A reporter, part of the USA TODAY Network, asked the postal worker in front of the offices of Columbus Dispatch, what was the reason behind taking out the boxes? He replied that it was because of riots. On the same day, more than 30 mailboxes were disappeared from the streets of the same city.
There was no sign of then returning till Aug 21, the same day when Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified for senate committee regarding postal cuts.
Meantime, missing mailboxes have turned as a political hot button all across the United States.
The disappearing of blue boxes was happening for decades. But now in this pandemic situation and since the presidential election is on the line, missing mailboxes have become suspicious. President is already fanning the flames of suspicion about sabotaging the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting. Every America now is paying close attention to every cut made by the post office.
In total, 3258 boxes were removed from 2010-2019, and Postal Service reports this.
But there is no clarity on the boxes removed in the current year. There was no proper response given by the Postal Service for USA TODAY’s question on records of boxes removed this year. But, compared to the mail collection boxes of the September 2019 release, which was listed on the official website, this month’s number shows over 4200 reductions.
Later reporters all across USA TODAY Network went for a check of 271 of these boxes in 20 states. They confirmed that at least 186 of them were not there. But, remaining boxes were not removed.
On Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood present Broadway in New York City, the boxes were removed. In Ashland, Massachusetts, there were four boxes present in the post office. They went offline when the building was closed due to mold in the basement. By spring, it was supposed to reopen but still hasn’t.
At least 21 of the boxes are already gone in Eugene, Oregon. In most of the locations, it was multiple boxes and now has one or two. But a Rusty bolt that was embedded in the concrete was visible. Many boxes were removed in Chicago during construction projects and even in Wisconsin, Wauwatosa, and Philadelphia.
Even though there are many removals, compared to the historical average, even 2020 looks like a normal year. But many voting-rights experts raise the question of why the Postal Service is planning to remove boxes in this pandemic?. In this time, it is expected that most of the voters will prefer to cast ballots through the mail.
Bernard Fraga asks, “Why they are removing mailboxes at this pandemic. Even if there is some reason, why can’t they wait till elections?” She is the associate professor of political science at Emory University.
“It’s a lifeline for a lot of people,” a senior staff attorney at American Civil Liberties Union, Brett Max Kaufman asks.
Even for outgoing mail, people with limited transportation and disabilities, and seniors often rely on boxes present in their neighborhood. They anyway have difficulties in choosing voting in-person. They need to risk their illness and find problems when they try to navigate for voting by mail, says Capri Cafaro. She teaches politics at American University, and she was a former Democratic member of the Ohio Senate.
“Mainly for underserved communities, removing sorting machines and mailboxes results in disproportionate impact since the post office is completely relied upon,” she adds.
The Postal Service is already removed in Upper Manhattan, and the reason was for construction at Cabrini Boulevard. There is a salon near the intersection, and the owner said, “the seniors present in the nearby building should walk uphill many blocks just to reach out to the nearest mailbox.”
States are already expanding voting access in many different ways. This includes offering drop boxes and mail ballots. Through this, people can drop off ballots in person. They are even extending the time or deadlines, mainly for returning ballots.
But, there is a fear raised about voter suppression in mid-August centered on mailboxes. The reason behind this was a viral tweet that shoed a pile of them dumps at someplace. Even though the photo was debunked, it was shared 80000 times. Later it coincided with the actual news of box removal in many places.
This combination resulted in a social media frenzy, and for this, #USPS was a high trending hashtag. This went on for many days, and #USPSProtests and #SaveTheUSPS were also added.
Finally, public concerns reached the top level of government. House approved legislation Aug 22 for allocating $25 billion to the Postal Service. There was a ban on operational cuts till the elections. Over two dozen Republicans joined Democrats in voting this measure, but there is no expectation that it will have a vote in the Senate controlled by Republicans.
Trump opposes federal funding towards the Post office, and he says it is losing money. He also added that this is a continuation of false claims and fraud linked to mail-in voting.
Postmaster General DeJoy is the major donor for Trump’s campaign. He also showed top financial interests towards Postal Service’s private competitors. He said, “Safe and timely delivery of election mail through Senate Committee is his sacred duty.” But he also added, “Postal Service has no plans to reinstall mail sorters and mailboxes which were removed earlier.”
Once the political fighting reached the peak, Nathan Story pitched in. He runs a website that connects mailboxes and users. He heard people’s concerns about mailbox removal and conducted an analysis. Even though the analysis was expected to find more missing mailboxes, after analysis he stated
“When I crunched the numbers, I felt a lot less concerned about it.”
With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.