Today’s big story was the administration’s assault on the United States Postal Service. Yesterday, the president said outright that he opposed relief funding for the cash-strapped institution because he wanted to stop mail-in voting, even though he and his wife Melania have both applied for mail-in ballots. Slowing down or stopping the mail will create chaos around the election, and will likely mean ballots will not be counted. It will also funnel voters back to polling places, although the pandemic means there are far fewer of them than usual.
Once at polling places, many voters will cast their ballots on voting machines that are vulnerable to hacking. New machines, rolled out after 2016 and designed to keep cyberhackers at bay, proved “extremely unsafe, especially in close elections,” according to Alex Halderman, a computer scientist from the University of Michigan who, along with six colleagues, studied them. At least 18% of the country’s districts will vote on the new machines, including districts in Pennsylvania, which Trump needs to win but where Biden is up by double digits.
“There are strong security reasons to prefer hand-marked paper ballots,” Halderman told Joseph Marks of the Washington Post.
A bipartisan organization of state secretaries of state—the people in charge of elections—wrote to Trump’s new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on August 7 to ask for a meeting to discuss his recent changes to the USPS and to explore how those changes would affect the election. In a delay that observers say is “unusual,” he has declined to answer. The USPS recently sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C. to say that it cannot guarantee that it will be able to deliver mail-in ballots on time. The letters were prepared before DeJoy took office, suggesting that he knew the USPS should be ramping up its capacity, not decreasing it.
News broke today that DeJoy was named to the finance team of the Republican National Committee in 2017 (along with Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Gordon Sondland, if anyone can remember back to the days of impeachment), suggesting his partisanship makes him a poor fit for what is supposed to be a nonpartisan office.
In June, USPS officials told union officials that management was getting rid of 671 sorting machines, about 10% of the machines in the country. The sorters were the kind that handled letters and postcards, not magazines and large envelopes. The argument for getting rid of them is that people write fewer letters these days, but of course we are all expecting a huge influx of mail-in ballots that those machines would handle. Many of the removed sorters were in states that are political battlegrounds: Ohio lost 24 sorters, Detroit lost 11, Florida lost 11, Wisconsin lost 9, Philadelphia lost 8 and Arizona lost 5.
Similarly, the USPS removed letter boxes today in what it said were routine reassignments. The outcry was great enough that it has announced it will not remove any more until after the election. The removal of the boxes may indeed be routine, but David Becker, executive director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research told Washington Postreporter Jacob Bogage, “Given the other things that are going on, it’s okay to ask questions…. The high-speed sorters that are getting deactivated, the loss of overtime, the delays in mail we’re seeing right now, all of this should cause some concern and warrants questions.”
Today, Inspector General for the USPS Tammy L. Whitcomb announced that, at the request of Democrats, she is opening an investigation into “all recent staffing and policy changes put in place” by DeJoy. She will also be looking into DeJoy’s compliance with ethics rules, related to his huge financial stake in private competitors to the USPS.