An individual’s right to vote in the upcoming national elections may be compromised if the Trump Administration’s push for privatizing the United States Postal Service (USPS) succeeds.
Millions of Americans, including Connecticut residents, will send their ballots by mail this year to avoid any unnecessary and potential exposure to the coronavirus, but undermining the USPS may delegitimize crucial votes.
Privatizing the USPS would also negatively impact the 600,000 workers employed by the USPS, those who depend on the organization to deliver medications or Social Security checks, and hospitals or other businesses that rely on the transportation of goods. By refusing crucial funding that could prepare the USPS for the overwhelming number of ballots and sabotaging the USPS in other flagrant ways, the Trump Administration is attempting to delegitimize mailed ballots. Individuals vote for a president who they believe will serve the United States in the most beneficial and equitable way, but with the potential privatization of the USPS, our voices will be silenced in the upcoming election. We must protect the United States Postal Service.
It is important to understand what privatizing the USPS means. Privatization occurs when the government no longer sufficiently funds a public agency, such as the USPS, forcing citizens to rely on privately-operated alternatives such as UPS and FedEx. Supporters of privatization argue that private companies are more innovative, efficient, and cost effective than the public sector. Many supporters of privatization also argue that the USPS is unsustainable. Critics of the USPS also claim that the service is a monopoly which prevents a fair and competitive bidding market, one of the main concerns legal scholars Jody Freeman and Martha Minow have of outsourcing to the private sector. However, due to policies and lack of Congressional reform, the USPS is being set up to fail. The USPS has lost billions of dollars due to mismanagement by Congress, including compensation costs for employees.
Additional policies have been financially burdening the organization. In 2003, James Miller became a member of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. He pushed through legislation that would force the USPS to allocate benefits for employees 75 years in the future which made the USPS profits go from $1 billion dollars a year to losses. In addition, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 prevented the USPS from being able to raise stamp prices. Through these policies and Trump’s refusal of funds that would offer financial stability, this public service is facing a daunting future.
As Gov. Ned Lamont stated, “Nobody should need to make a decision between their health and their right to vote.” Allowing voters to cast absentee ballots alleviates Connecticut residents’ concern of exposure to COVID-19. With President Trump threatening the legitimacy of mail-in voting and absentee voting, mostly that of Democratic voters, it is of dire necessity that voters send their ballots in early and accurately to ensure their vote counts.
During the Connecticut primary election, roughly 57% of the votes cast were absentee ballots. There is evidence of party affiliation and how an individual chose to vote; more than 62% of Connecticut Democrats voted through an absentee ballot while only 41% of Connecticut Republicans voted via absentee ballot.
It is possible that the percentage of Connecticut absentee ballots and mail-in votes will increase with this Presidential election, especially as a wave of new coronavirus cases is hitting communities in numbers mirroring mid-April. In Connecticut, on October 12, there were 1,339 new cases, the highest daily increase of new cases since mid-April. This alone may encourage voters who planned to vote in person, to vote via absentee ballot or mail-in voting. The legitimacy of an individual’s vote may become invalid if President Trump privatizes the USPS.
Privatizing the USPS, a public commodity millions of Americans rely on which delivers nearly 150 billion mail pieces annually, is not the solution. As critical policy scholars Diem, Young, and Sampson argue, we must consider the benefits and costs to society and sub-groups within the population. We must think about people who are disabled, the elderly, people who have an impairment that does not permit them to move about easily, and others who rely on door-to-door service in order to get mail or packages.
We must think about the 10.4% of Connecticut residents who live below the poverty line that rely on food stamps and welfare checks to be delivered by mail, those living in rural towns where often the USPS is the only service that will deliver right to their door, and the roughly 8,200 U.S. Postal Service employees in Connecticut who may lose their job.
With the cutbacks and changes already happening to the USPS, including the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines, it is of the utmost importance that Connecticut residents support the USPS. Calling your congressional representatives to demand that they increase funding for the USPS, refraining from ordering from companies that ship through UPS or FedEx, buying a sheet of stamps or other company merchandise, and signing petitions backing the company will support the United States Postal Service significantly.
As well, getting your vote in early and accurately will alleviate some of the pressure the USPS will encounter with the overwhelming number of mail-in ballots. Protecting the USPS is critical for protecting our democracy and the voting process.
Alina Ryan is a junior at Trinity College. She is majoring in Public Policy and Law with a concentration in health.