The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail, sparking fears the problem could continue into November and affect the election.
Additionally, an internal report from the postal service warned almost half the states are not providing adequate time for workers to deliver ballots ahead of the election.
Several states affected are battleground ones that could decide if Donald Trump or Joe Biden is the next president and it’s big cities – which are hot beds of Democratic voters – that will likely be most affected.
But the delays are the result of changes put in place by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy, The Washington Post reported, leading to allegations of that the election is being undermined by politics.
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have attacked the U.S. Post Office, saying the postal system cannot be trusted to deliver mail-in ballots to the various state boards of elections to be counted. The number of mail-in ballots is expected to be unusually high this year as states are expanding that voting option to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The changes DeJoy implemented include prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes. His supporters say the moves are to cut costs and help the debt-ridden service make its way to the black.
But postal workers told the newspaper that the changes have resulted in at least a two day delay in parts of the country along with bins and bins of unsorted, undelivered mail piling up in post offices.
Additionally, many states use a postmark to determine whether or not a ballot meets the deadline to be counted and the delays in processing could affect them, meaning a ballot that was mailed in time still may not have the election day post mark that many states require in order for it to be counted.
An internal report from the Postal Service warned there are 24 states with deadlines close enough to the election that do not provide or at high risk for not giving the post office time to deliver ballots before the election.
The states include the battleground states of New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Ohio.
‘Ballots requested less than seven days before an election are at a high risk of not being delivered, completed by voters, and returned to the election offices in time,’ the report stated.
In Michigan, which is using expanded mail-in voting options for its August 4 primary and the general election, officials are encouraging voters to drop off their absentee ballot to their local clerks in person.
‘This close to the primary, Michiganders should return their absentee ballots to their clerk’s office directly, or submit them via their local ballot drop box, in order to ensure their vote is counted,’ Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement on Tuesday.
Benson became a target of Trump’s wrath in May when she mailed absentee ballot applications to the state’s 7.7 million registered voters. The president threatened to withhold federal funding from the state in return.
Post office workers spoke of their fears about the November election.
‘I’m actually terrified to see election season under the new procedure,’ said Lori Cash, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 183 in Western New York, told The Post.
David Partenheimer, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, responded that the delays were temporary and would not impact the upcoming election.
He called allegations DeJoy takes directions from President Trump are ‘wholly misplaced and off-base’ and pointed out the postmaster general is appointed by a bipartisan board of governors.
Michigan Postal Workers Union President Michael Mize described to a local news outlet how workers were no longer allowed to stay late at their distribution centers until all of the mail for their route was sorted and ready to be sent out.
‘Eventually this [is] going to cause long-term, large delays if we don’t do something,’ he said. He predicted big cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids would be most affected – areas that are heavy with Democratic voters.
Meanwhile, President Trump doubled down on his threat to delay November’s election, citing concerns mail-in voting could lead to a ‘rigged’ and ‘crooked’ result as one of the Republican Party’s most prominent conservative members said the president should be impeached over the matter.
Trump, in a brief news conference at the White House on Thursday evening, said he didn’t want to see the election delayed but also argued he didn’t want to see mail-in ballots go missing, indicating his opposition to mail-in voting remains an issue in regards to the general election.
The president and some Republicans have pushed the unproven claim that mail-in voting leads to fraud and they’ve also questioned the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to get all the ballots delivered to the various state boards of election.
‘We’re asking for a lot of trouble,’ Trump said. ‘Do I want to see a date change? No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history.’
More and more states are looking at mail-in voting options as a way to counter the coronavirus pandemic but Republicans believe that favors voting blocs that vote Democrats and are suing several states to stop the process.
‘I don’t want to delay,’ Trump added. ‘I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That what’s going to happen.’
‘And everyone knows it,’ he added. ‘Smart people know. Stupid people may not know it. Some people don’t want to talk about it. But they know it.’
As Trump railed against election delays, a prominent conservative, Steven Calabresi – the co-founder of the Federalist Society – said Trump’s tweet on Thursday morning calling for an election delay was ground for impeachment.
‘This latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate,’ Calabresi wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.
The pronouncement was shocking given Calabresi voted for Trump in 2016 and is well regarded in the right wing of the party. The Federalist Society has worked closely with the Trump administration on its appointment of judges to the federal bench and the Supreme Court.
Calabresi pointed that United States has never canceled an election – not even during times of war – so ‘we certainly should not even consider canceling this fall’s election because of the president’s concern about mail-in voting, which is likely to increase because of fears about Covid-19.’
He argued the decision on mail-in voting is up to each state and not the purview of the federal government, citing Article II of the Constitution.
Trump also claimed his bombshell attempt to delay November’s election was merely a way to get the media to talk about his allegations against mail-in voting and added that he expects to know election results the night of Nov. 3.
‘Glad I was able to get the very dishonest LameStream Media to finally start talking about the RISKS to our Democracy from dangerous Universal Mail-In-Voting (not Absentee Voting, which I totally support!),’ he tweeted before his news conference.
Presidents have no power to change the date of the election. That must be done through an act of Congress. And Republican senators, including several Trump allies, were quick to say it wasn’t going happen.
Trump then argued he wanted to bring attention to his argument that mail-in voting causes fraud. Numerous studies have shown that is not the case and that there is very little voter fraud in America.
But the president also gave another demand – to know the results on election night. Given that many states are expanding mail-in voting options to limit exposure to the coronavirus, the results of the contest will likely take a few days as any ballot with a November 3 postmark will be counted.
Even the results in 2016, which used in-person for the majority of voting, weren’t know until later the next day.
‘Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!,’ Trump wrote.
And he added: ‘We are going to WIN the 2020 Election, BIG! #MAGA’
His chief of staff Mark Meadows, on Capitol Hill to work on coronavirus relief package negotiations, said the president’s delay demand was referring to concerns about how long a national mail-in election would take to be tabulated.
‘He’s highlighting what what he strongly believes and what billions of Americans believe is that, trying to go to a universal mail-in ballot process by its very function will delay the results of the election,’ Meadows told reporters on Capitol Hill.
He pointed out that results of some of the races in New York’s primary, held last month, were still be waited on as the state board of elections counted mail-in ballots.
‘Can you imagine what that would be like if we’re waiting on who the President of the United States is going to be based on mail-in ballots?’ Meadows said.
The winner of the presidential election would not be sworn into office until Wednesday, January 20, 2021, which would give almost three months for all ballots to be counted.
In 2000, the winner of the George W. Bush and Al Gore contest was not declared until December 12 after numerous recounts in Florida and a ruling by the Supreme Court.
Meadows also questioned the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee the safety of the mail-in ballots, another question Republicans are raising in the fight against mail-in ballots.
‘Universal mail in ballots, you would raise the question of does every ballot, when it leaves the election board and goes out in the mail to someone who is registered, does it get returned and is that ballot actually safe and secure? I would suggest, knowing the United States Postal Service as well as I do – and no disrespect to the great men and women who work in the postal system – I don’t know that we have a high degree of confidence that the custody of those ballots can be the same as if you were going in and casting your ballot in person,’ he added.
Trump’s clarification also comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans shot down his suggestion to delay the November election until ‘people can properly, securely and safely vote.’
McConnell pointed out elections hadn’t been delayed in the past and did not need to be now.
‘Never in the history of the country through wars, depressions, and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. And we’ll find a way to do that again this November 3,’ McConnell told a local Kentucky television station.
He confirmed he expected the election to take place on November 3. ‘That’s right. We’ll cope with whatever the situation is in the election on November 3 as already scheduled.’
Other Republicans agreed.
‘I don’t believe we should delay the elections. Delaying the election probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I think we can be able to safely vote in person in November,’ said Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally on Capitol Hill.
Senator Rick Scott, another Trump ally, said he ‘doesn’t agree with delaying the election.’
Senator Chuck Grassley, the president pro temp of the Senate, said the country would follow the law when it came to the election date.
‘All these things are pretty well set and have been going on for decades. And so we’re a country based on the rule of law so nobody’s going to change anything until we change the law,’ he said.
Senator Ted Cruz said election fraud should be investigated but that doesn’t mean postponing the election.
‘I think election fraud is a serious problem and we need to fight it and stop it. But no, we should not delay the election,’ he said.
And House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is also close to Trump, said there should be no delay.
‘Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election and we should go forward,’ he said.
Trump’s pronouncement came right after news the U.S. economy shrank by 33 per cent in the April-June quarter.
That number marks the worst quarterly plunge ever and comes as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down businesses, thrown tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment to 14.7 per cent. Trump has banked his re-election chances on a strong U.S. economy. Voters give him high marks on his economic policy but have dinged him for his handling of the coronavirus and race relations.
Democrats accused the president of attempting to distract from the terrible economic news.
‘Trump’s threat is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from today’s devastating economic numbers that make it clear his failed response to the coronavirus has tanked the U.S. economy and caused tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Trump can tweet all he wants, but the reality is that he can’t delay the election, and come November, voters will hold him accountable for his failures that have led to catastrophic consequences for the American people,’ said Democratic National Committee spokesperson Lily Adams.
Trump tied his suggested to delaying the election to his complaints about mail-in voting, which he has repeatedly complained will lead to vote fraud. Numerous studies have shown very little voter fraud in the United States via mail-in voting.
‘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???,’ Trump tweeted.
Hogan Gidley, the spokesperson for President Trump’s re-election campaign, said the president was merely questioning the legitimacy of mail-in voting.
‘The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting.
‘They are using coronavirus as their means to try to institute universal mail-in voting, which means sending every registered voter a ballot whether they asked for one or not.
‘Voter rolls are notoriously full of bad addresses for people who have moved, are non-citizens, or are even deceased. Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results, as proven by the New York Congressional primary where we still don’t know who won after more than a month,’ Gidley said in a statement.
Attorney General Bill Barr was asked at a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill if the president has the power to delay November’s contest.
‘Actually I haven’t looked into that question under the Constitution. I’ve never been asked the question before, I’ve never looked into it,’ he said.
Barr also said he had ‘no reason to think’ that the upcoming election will be ‘rigged.’
The date of general election is statutorily set as ‘the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November’ or ‘the first Tuesday after November 1,’ according to the 1845 law passed by Congress. Only new legislation could change that date.
Additionally, Article II of the Constitution declares Congress – in effect – sets the election date: ‘The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.’
But Trump’s tweet could stoke fears already present among Democrats the president will use his executive powers – such as declaring martial law – to suppress voter turn out in Democratic areas such as big cities.
Polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading in national polls and in many of the battleground states that will decide the contest.
Biden has warned that Trump could seek to nullify and try to delegitimize November’s contest should he lose.
‘Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,’ Biden said at a virtual fundraiser in April.
And Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called Trump’s decision to send in federal forces to U.S. cities with demonstrations taking place in support of the Black Lives Matters movement is a ‘dry run for martial law.’
Durkan said President Trump, ‘clearly targeted cities run by Democratic mayors. He’s said so himself.’
‘He’s using law enforcement as a political tool,’ she told CNN earlier this week. ‘I hate to say it, but I really believe that we are seeing the dry run for martial law. This is a president that is using law enforcement and federal forces for political purposes and that should be chilling to every American.’
Trump also suggested Thursday that mail-in voting would allow foreign interference in the election.
‘Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster. Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count!,’ he tweeted.
Many states have opted to expand mail-in voting options for November’s contest because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has railed against these decisions and the Republican Party has created a $20 million legal fund to fight them.
The president, who is a resident of Florida, has voted absentee in several elections, including the state’s presidential primary earlier this year. Vice President Mike Pence and several other members of his administration have also voted absentee.
But Trump argues voting absentee is different than wide-spread mail-in voting.
He has attacked mail voting nearly 70 times since late March in interviews, remarks and tweets, including at least 17 times this month, according to a tally by The Washington Post.
Polls have shown most Americans – including Republicans – favor absentee voting as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
In the event of extenuating circumstances, like traveling for work during the time of an election or being bed-ridden, voters in most states can apply for absentee ballots to cast their vote by mail ahead of the election date.
There are five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – that already hold their elections by mail-in voting.
Long lines have plagued several states during their primary elections the past few months. The number of polling places have been limited because of a shortage of workers due to the virus. Social distancing measures also mean the voting process takes longer.
In Georgia’s June primary, voters waited in line for hours without being able to cast a ballot as a shortage of poll workers and social-distancing precautions caused by the coronavirus contributed to the problem. Some precincts were closed due to lack of election officials available to work and official limited the number of people allowed into the ones open to prevent the virus from spreading.
Voters took to Twitter to post photos of the long lines and point out the polling places that hadn’t opened as scheduled at 7 a.m. Technical issues with the new voting system – which combines touchscreens with scanned paper ballots in races for president, Senate and dozens of other contests – brought voting to a stand still.
In May President Trump threatened to hold federal funds from states like Michigan, which was mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters.
Trump has also criticized California’s mail-in balloting initiative, where registered voters have been sent ballots without having to formally request one.
Republicans have filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsome’s move.
Republicans long have been suspicious that making voting easier would elect more Democrats. Young people, for instance, tend to tilt more Democratic, but are also less likely to vote in-person.
Additionally, Republicans have long complained about ‘ballot harvesting’ – their term for the process where someone (usually a party volunteer) collects absentee ballots from a group of people and mails them for them. Democrats call it ballot collecting.
In two-thirds of the states, any qualified voter may vote absentee without offering an excuse, and in one-third of the states, an excuse is required, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But many states – including West Virginia and Virginia – are adding fear of the coronavirus as a valid excuse to request an absentee ballot.