It appears that when Postmaster General Louis DeJoy decided to pause expected changes to operations at the U.S. Postal Service, he did so without consulting President Trump. Whether DeJoy keeps his job after his announcement remains to be seen, but no matter his future with the agency, his decision was the right one.
It came after days of scrutiny about the Postal Service’s struggles and how DeJoy appeared to be buckling to pressure to make changes that could have slowed the process for mail-in election ballots later this year. The president has claimed that if he loses in November it will be because of flaws in the postal system or that, in his words, that the election is “rigged.”
The New York Times reported this week that DeJoy has donated more than $1 million to the president’s campaign efforts.
As controversy about mail-in ballots swirls, DeJoy made plans to reduce business hours at post offices, as well as other changes that would have reduced processing equipment, collection boxes and facilities.
The proposals were met with sharp criticism, and numerous states – led by Democratic attorneys general – planned legal action.
The U.S. House of Representatives will discuss the USPS in a special session Saturday.
But now DeJoy has backed down, saying postal hours won’t change, mailboxes won’t be removed and processing facilities won’t be closed. That is, at least until after the election.
"To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," DeJoy said in a statement.
Thank goodness. Any systemic changes in the weeks leading up to a presidential election – one that will rely heavily upon the mail service – will no doubt hint at cronyism and stoke fears of election tampering.
That’s not to say changes mustn’t be made to the service, however. The USPS has warned that it is headed toward a financial crash; it has seen financial losses for more than a decade, including a loss of nearly $9 billion in 2019 and $2.2 billion the second quarter of fiscal 2020.
The service is saddled by a variety of problems, including a decline in volume brought on by the internet and email, as well as an expensive pension program for its employees. And while mailings from the U.S. Census apparently have boosted volume in recent weeks, the USPS has reported the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated its woes.
Yet the USPS is vital, and especially so in rural areas like North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. For example, medication delivery is an oft-cited service provided by the USPS.
DeJoy’s proposals for the USPS aren’t necessarily bad. But doing anything that diminishes service in the weeks leading up to an election – and especially an election that will rely so heavily on mail-in ballots – is an affront to democracy.
Changes must come, but now isn’t the time.
DeJoy, to maintain any semblance of neutrality and integrity, was right to back down.