Republicans and Democrats spent the weekend sparring over the U.S. Postal Service crisis.
The disagreements come as President Donald Trump said he'd essentially hold the Postal Service in financial limbo as he continuously espouses the unfounded claim that mail-in voting will increase voter fraudulence.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Congress back to Washington D.C. nearly a month early on Sunday in order to pass a bill that would stop the White House from making further changes to the Postal Service before the election, according to The Washington Post.
Pelosi is also planning an August 24 House Oversight Committee hearing that may include Robert Duncan, the Postal Service board of governors chairman, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who is at the center of complaints that the Postal Service is being intentionally damaged from the inside, The Post reported.
National outrage over the destruction of the Postal Service reached a tipping point last week as millions faced disruptions to mail service and now have to comb through arcane state procedures to prepare for voting by mail.
According to HuffPost, estimates show that about 80 million people will likely vote by mail in November, and The New York Times reported more than 75% of voters in the country will be able to vote through the mail in November.
Here's what you need to know:
Trump is unabashedly manipulating his powers to get what he wants
Trump has been open about his desire to stop voting by mail at all costs, even though he and his wife requested mail-in ballots for the upcoming Florida primaries on Thursday, The Hill reported.
For months, Trump has spoken openly about the idea that if mail-in voting is allowed, more Republican candidates may lose elections. It has also been a longstanding GOP desire to privatize the service, despite its place in the Constitution and its indispensability to rural Americans, according to HuffPost.
In press conferences and tweets, Trump has repeatedly spread debunked lies about mail-in voting and floated delaying the election, which he legally cannot do, according to NPR.
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
“They need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it,” Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on Thursday.
By Friday, he was openly holding the Postal Service hostage, demanding something in return for providing emergency funding to the vital agency that has struggled to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president just said several times that he would accept billions in funding for USPS if the Democrats will give him some of what he wants on other matters.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 14, 2020
This weekend, the White House sought to downplay Trump's comments about the Postal Service, with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows telling CNN, “The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their votes in a legitimate way whether it’s the post office or anything else.”
Republican officials have already set up plans in all 50 states to sue election bodies so that ballots that are missing stamps or have mistakes can be thrown out. Some GOP members are even fighting the installment of drop boxes, The Post reported.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has donated to Trump's campaign
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tore into DeJoy for upending the organization's leadership in the middle of a pandemic and cutting costs at a time when mail is at an all-time high.
Rep. Gerald Connolly said it was "deliberate sabotage,” and The Post noted that along with being a generous Trump donor, DeJoy and his wife have holdings worth between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in companies that could be seen as competitors or contractors for the Postal Service.
The smooth functioning of the @USPS during the COVID-19 pandemic is a matter of life-or-death, and is critical for protecting lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy. Postmaster General DeJoy must reverse new policies which accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 12, 2020
According to The Guardian, DeJoy has spent weeks consolidating power, firing workers and disrupting service, which has caused real-world problems. In a release, Pelosi said people were running low on medicine and that businesses were struggling to survive because of the slowed mail service.
"Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the top Trump mega-donors, has proven a complicit crony as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and – according to the Postal Service itself – threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion," Pelosi said.
"These delays also threaten the health and economic security of the American people by delaying delivery of life-saving medicines and payments. In 2019, 1.2 billion prescriptions were delivered through the Postal Services, including almost 100 percent from the VA to veterans. Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the President," Pelosi added.
Election officials in all 50 states are scrambling to address significant issues related to how this will all work. Throughout the coronavirus-affected primary season, states struggled to handle the deluge of mail-in ballots.
In addition to the disruptions to the mail, the Postal Service has already said it will not be able to get all of the mail-in ballots to voting precincts for counting in time.
“The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” Martha Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said in a statement to The Post.
The Postal Service said if you want to be sure your ballot is counted, you have to send it in the mail before October 27.
“This is the way we have to operate. We’ve got to get people in the mindset of getting things done early. There will be no excuse to not vote this year,” said Patrick Hogan, vice chair of the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Social media has captured the removal of mailboxes and mail sorters
On Friday, The Post reported that at least 671 Postal Service mail sorting machines were being decommissioned countrywide. The machines are capable of processing 21.4 million pieces of mail each hour.
When the newspaper put the removals on a map, many online pointed to the obvious electoral benefits of the states being hit hardest.
michigan, wisconsin, ohio, pennsylvania, florida, texas. weird coincindence https://t.co/5cj4Ns5lie
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) August 14, 2020
How your state handles mail-in voting
Check out HeadCount.org for more information on how your state handles mail-in ballots.
Both The Times and The Post put together detailed guides on what each state is doing in regard to allowing people to vote through the mail or request ballots through the mail.
The Times explained that 21% of voters in nine states and Washington D.C. will have ballots mailed right to their door. This will be done for the first time in states like California and Vermont.
But for most, including about 118 million people in 34 states, you have to request a mail-in ballot. These states are allowing the coronavirus to be used as an excuse for getting a ballot or are waiving the need for any excuse.
Forty-six million people in seven other states will not be so lucky. Residents of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, New York, Tennessee and Indiana cannot use the coronavirus as a reason for a mail-in ballot and will be forced to vote in person unless their state makes a change.
Some, like New York, are waiting for the results of a lawsuit or executive order that would force the state to either allow the coronavirus as an excuse for a ballot or waive the need for an excuse entirely. Last week, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear made mail-in voting available for all eligible voters in the state through executive order.
The Times noted that the Cook Political Report has found that over the years, Democratic states have sought to expand access to mail-in voting while Republican-leaning states have governments that often seek to restrict it as much as possible.