The botched federal response to COVID-19 and diehard anti-maskers have all but ensured that voters will have to cast their November 3 presidential ballots in person amid a deadly pandemic. Two-thirds of U.S. states offer their residents a safe and reliable form of voting that comes with zero risk of contracting the novel coronavirus — mail-in voting. Texas is not one of them. To qualify for absentee voting, eligible Texans must be 65 years or older, disabled, out of the county they are registered in, or confined in jail.
Even with the Lone Star State’s restrictive voting laws, local U.S. Postal Service offices are predicted to receive record numbers of mail-in ballots come November. As the fall election looms closer, the postal service is in its worst shape in recent memory and may not be up to the task of delivering ballots before county-mandated deadlines. News outlets across the country are reporting delivery times that are days or several days later than expected. That means delayed medications, late social security checks, and spoiled food products for millions of Americans.
“It is taking a longer time period for medication to arrive at our home,” said Harold Parkey, a Vietnam veteran. “This is having a very deleterious effect on veterans.”
Parkey and supporters of the postal service gathered at two Fort Worth post offices last Saturday to garner support for government mail delivery. Standing near the intersection of West 7th Street and University Drive, Parkey and three post office supporters held a large yellow banner that read, “Support Our Postal Services.” Parkey said the group plans to hold similar rallies at local post offices every Saturday until the November 3 election.
Some of the postal service’s woes are an inevitable consequence of COVID-19. Mail revenue is down, and some government employees are understandably refusing to deliver mail for health-related reasons.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Republicans (including Donald Trump), has taken steps to gut and hamstring the postal service at a time when its services could prove critical to ensuring free and fair elections. DeJoy has cut overtime and removed high-volume mail sorting machines across the country, although he recently said he would temporarily pause that last ill-conceived policy decision.
The postmaster general’s actions could very well jeopardize hundreds of thousands or even millions of mail-in ballots this fall. Voter suppression takes many forms. Sometimes, being willfully negligent at your job can be just as damaging to democratic elections as any poll tax ever was.