Should We Freak Out Yet? Your Postal Service Fuckery Roundup
Yesterday, Donald Trump openly acknowledged on Fox Business that he doesn't want emergency funding for the US Postal Service, because then it could more easily handle an expected increase in voting by mail, and how is letting people vote safely during a pandemic even fair? That episode of saying the loud part even louder set off a lot of Oh Look It's Totalitarianism alarm bells, for good reason, since Trump is pretty openly having his pet postmaster general, GOP donor Louis DeJoy, dismantle and slow down the postal infrastructure, to make the USPS more "efficient" and "cost effective." Let's take a look at the latest horrors, along with one expert's sorta-good news: Fuck with the Post Office at your own risk, Mr. Trump.
And what can YOU do to stop this shit? Request your ballot well in advance, and if your local elections office has a drop box, get the ballot to 'em that way if you can. If you need to stay home because of health concerns, request a ballot as soon as you can and return your completed vote in the mail right after you receive it. And pester your electeds! It's the American way!
Trump: Maybe I Won't Veto A Post Office Funding Bill. We'll See.
The alarums and excursions set off by Trump's frank admission of wanting to suppress voting by mail don't appear to have been quieted in the least by Trump's non-walkback walkback of those comments. At his Thursday afternoon presser, Trump told reporters he definitely would not reverse DeJoy's changes in mail processing, which have led to delayed delivery not just of mail but also of prescription meds for seniors and veterans. Then he said sure, he'd sign a stimulus bill even if it includes the $25 billion in emergency funding the USPS says it needs. "All they have to do is make a deal," Trump said of Democrats, although he didn't exactly seem enthusiastic about the prospect.
He also spewed more of the usual nonsense pretending that absentee voting and vote by mail are two different things, which they aren't, and insisting, falsely, that voting by mail is prone to fraud (which it damn well is not).
NPR had the patience to write down his non-explanation:
"We want people to vote, but we want people to vote so when they vote it means one vote," Trump said.
"I'm not doing this for any reason," Trump said, referring to his push to deny the agency funds. "Maybe the other turns out to be my advantage. I don't know, I can't tell you that. But I do know this: I just want an accurate vote."
See? Everything's fine, and if he had actually said anything there, you could certainly call him on it if he later vetoes USPS funding. "But you said you would not veto it!" you could say, and Trump would say he hadn't said it at all, and it would be a Thursday.
USPS To States: Nah, We Can't Handle Your Votes, Too Bad So Sad
The Philadelphia Inquirer published the first of a whole bunch of stories around the country yesterday, revealing that the USPS had contacted elections officials in several states to warn that "certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards." Following the Inquirer story, papers in Michigan and Missouri published similar stories, all involving a late-July nastygram sent by USPS General Counsel Thomas J. Marshall to warn that the states were "incompatible" with what the Postal Service can do.
You see, the Postal Service suddenly decided to change how it treats election mail. Up until last month, USPS delivered election mail as speedily as if it were First Class mail, even though it only charged states the bulk mail rate of 20 cents per piece. Not any more! Now, if states want faster delivery, they'll have to pony up the First Class rate of 55 cents.
As it turns out, Yr Wonkette seems to have stumbled across what may be the first story on those letters to states, published Monday by the Spokane Spokesman-Review. We only made passing mention of Marshall's near-identical letter to Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman because we were focused more on that story's confirmation that the Postal Service is removing mail-sorting machines in cities all over the place.
The letters all appear to have included this admonition to the state election officials:
This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them
That certainly was news to several of the officials who, like Washington's Wyman, have been running elections by mail for years without any problems until now.
In Washington, which counts all ballots as long as they're postmarked by Election Day, the likely result of a postal slowdown may only be a delay in tabulating results. But in Pennsylvania, which requires ballots arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar asked the state Supreme Court to order that ballots be allowed to count if they arrive up to three days after, in light of the sudden notification that the USPS couldn't get mail processed in time. (WEIRD THAT USPS IS REMOVING SORTING MACHINES HUH?) The delivery slowdowns aren't the only way the mail-in vote is being ratfucked, of course; as Wonkette's Liz Dye notes, the Trump campaign and Republican state officials are also trying to eliminate drop-boxes where voters can return their mail-in ballots to elections offices.
And just as we were getting ready to post this roundup, the Washington Post reports similar letters were sent to 46 states and DC to let 'em know just how badly matched their voting procedures are to the current state of the US Postal Service. Jesus Bubblegum Christ on a stale Necco Wafer.
Hey, About Those Sorting Machines
Check out this Motherboard story with a deep dive into the perplexing bit of fuckery we wrote about Wednesday, in which post offices are seeing mail sorting machines actually removed from their buildings, which means that for mail to be sorted, it needs to be hauled to another post office, often in another city. The excuse is that there's low mail volume and USPS just wants to save money, but if that were the case, why not just not run the sorting machines, instead of ripping out the equipment altogether? We have a sinking feeling this reporting may just be the tip of the ratfuck-berg, too:
Motherboard identified 19 mail sorting machines from five processing facilities across the U.S. that either have already been removed or are scheduled to be in the near future. But the Postal Service operates hundreds of distribution facilities around the country, so it is not clear precisely how many machines are getting removed and for what purpose.
Even to local union officials, USPS has not announced any policy, explained why they are doing this, what will happen to the machines and the workers who use them. Nor has management provided a rationale for dismantling and removing the machines from the facility rather than merely not operating them when they're not needed.
Keep your eyes open, folks.
Hey, What's With The Trucks Taking Mailboxes Off The Corners?
Twitter user Mark Delaney in Portland, Oregon, had a question, and that question was WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
🚨Please share this picture far and wide. Trump is trying to steal the election. He is gutting the USPS to make it d… https://t.co/dUVqtvDOgE— Mark Ⴟ Delaney (@Mark Ⴟ Delaney)1596938047.0
Delaney noted in a follow-up tweet that he'd taken the photo August 8, and that nope, that mailbox wasn't being dropped off, it was being removed. Willamette Week did some assking around and was told by USPS spokesperson Ernie Swanson that the Postal Service "has removed four blue boxes from Portland, and 27 from Eugene." Which is already weird, since there are definitely more than four mailboxes in the back of that truck, in Portland.
What's more, Swanson said that USPS is only removing boxes from locations where there are multiple mailboxes together, he said with a big Grinchy grin:
USPS has not removed any mailboxes in locations where there was only one, Swanson said.
"In locations where we have more than one box sitting in the same spot side by side, we leave one behind," Swanson said.
Delaney acknowledged that USPS has told media organizations that. BUT! When it comes to the truck with more than four mailboxes he photographed, "The problem is, the one being taken in my photo was by itself. The mystery continues." He also added an update today, just in case anyone wanted to insist he must be making things up: Ain't no second mailbox left in place in that site:
Suddenly, we have a feeling people are going to start keeping a daily watch over their neighborhood mailboxes.
How This Could All Blow Up In Trump's Stupid Orange Face
Check out this fine Politico conversation with Philip F. Rubio, a history professor at North Carolina A&T State University. We've actually mentioned Rubio before; he wrote There's Always Work at the Post Office, a history of how the USPS played a central role in the creation of the Black middle class in the USA.
Rubio says that if Trump thinks he can depress the vote by having Louis DeJoy dismantle the USPS, he may not understand just how much Americans still like the Postal Service, yes even in 2020 with our internets and our email and our overnight delivery of shit.
There is, says Rubio, a real political risk in all of this for President Trump and the Republicans who support his USPS defunding. In 1970, after President Nixon's tough-love treatment of postal workers led to a wildcat strike among letter carriers, public opinion quickly swayed in against the president.
"I don't think the Nixon administration counted on the amount of sympathy people had for postal workers," says Rubio, who authored a book on the strike. "You could really see how much they identified with their letter carriers. A Gallup poll showed 61 percent approval for the postal workers who were striking and holding up their mail."
Go read the whole thing! It's very good! And support your postal workers by making noise!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.