More Americans will be casting their ballots through the U.S. mail this year due to the strictures and health risks of the coronavirus pandemic, but the debate over whether it is feasible and safe continues to brew with a little more than 80 days until Election Day.
That dispute is trickling down to the front lines for essential workers that will be tasked with partly ensuring the integrity of ballots: postal workers.
They will be the first point of contact with voters’ absentee ballots, responsible for shepherding them through rain, sun, snow or hail.
“We’ve been doing vote-by-mail for generations, military personnel have been voting by mail since the Civil War … In 2016 I think 33 million people voted by mail, almost one in four voters, and now we have a pandemic and it’s gonna be the only way many people are going to be able to safely vote,” Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 current and former mailmen and mailwomen, told Fox News Digital.
In eight states, every registered voter will be mailed an application to request an absentee ballot. In 25 states, voters will need to acquire an application for an absentee ballot themselves. And, in another eight states, voters still need an excuse beyond coronavirus to vote absentee.
The creation or alteration of mail-in voting plans is in direct correlation with partisan politics: Many Democrats favor the shift of expanding access to the ballot box while many prominent Republicans oppose it, saying it could lead to rampant voter fraud.
“The benchmark for this has already been set by the five states that do all absentee ballots across the country and they’re very good and they report very low incidents of fraud and that fraud is caught within the system,” Ivan Butts, vice president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, told Fox News.
Some of those assertions have come from President Trump, who has for months railed against the push by many states to increase voting by mail due to health concerns of in-person balloting at polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has repeatedly claimed that a surge in voting by mail would lead to massive voter fraud.
Ronna McDaniel, GOP chairwoman, echoed those same sentiments in an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
“They don’t have the counting machines and personnel. That’s why it took six weeks to get results in New York. Could you imagine, we have an Election Day and it takes two to three months to get the results, what that would do to this country when we are as divided as we are?”
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is pledging that the U.S. Postal Service will do everything it can “to deliver election mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards” after reports suggested there was an effort underway to slow down election mail.
“The law says prompt, reliable and efficient services. Prompt means quickly. It doesn’t mean slower and later. People expect things quicker, not slower and later…The Postal Service itself does training during the election process. Ballots get full priority. If envelopes are a certain color, then workers will be trained to look for them to make sure they get processed,” Dimondstein said.
The Postal Service has been operating at a funding deficit for years. Yesterday, Rep.Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced legislation that would prohibit the Postal Service from “implementing any changes to the operations or level of service it had in place on Jan. 1, 2020, until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.”
Union bosses like Dimondstein are also calling for more funding for USPS, hoping there will be some allocation of funds to it in the next round of virus relief legislation.
“I am confident that Congress should do it, I’m not confident that they will do it,” Dimondstein says, acknowledging that no money was carved out in March’s CARES Act for USPS.
Dimondstein says members of his union are insulted at the charges levied against postal workers that they may not be equipped to handle the influx of ballots and called partisan attacks against the service “shameful,” citing the fact that if anything shouldn’t be polarized in this climate, it’s the men and women of the Postal Service.
“The integrity of the postal worker is beyond doubt. We take our oath of office seriously. A ballot is private, it is secure. We don’t move it beholden to a candidate, party, [but] beholden to the American people and their right to vote.”