September 07, 2020

Weekly Column: Setting The Record Straight On The United States Postal Service

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Most of the inaccurate, partisan narrative regarding allegedly new changes at the United States Postal Service (USPS) are part of long-term efforts from multiple administrations to improve its solvency.  The Postal Service is not being disassembled and no efforts are underway to hinder the efficient handling of election mail.  The Postal Service can effectively handle the increased volume of ballots facilitated via mail expected from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Administration’s actions, most of which are continuations from previous administrations, are intended to ensure the Postal Service’s long-term viability and efficiency.

  • The Postal Service has faced more than $78 billion in losses since 2007.
  • To streamline the USPS’s operational footprint, the USPS has reportedly removed more than 30,000 collection boxes from around the country over the past 10 years--approximately 3,500 per year.  To compare, 1,463 have been removed this year, roughly the same as the 1,467 removed in 2016. 
  • The Government Accountability Office’s 2012 report noted since 2006, the USPS has consolidated mail processing operations to reduce excess costs.  According to the USPS, it uses letter sorting equipment roughly one-third of the time, meaning it has ample letter sorting capacity to handle election mail today.
  • According to Postmaster General DeJoy‘s testimony, he has only implemented two changes since he started in June: requiring trucks to run on schedule and realigning the Postal Service’s reporting structure.

Even with increased voting methods via mail, millions of Americans are expected to exercise their right to vote in-person at local polling locations.  Participation in the electoral process is one of the most fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans and I support protecting U.S. elections and our democratic system.  The Postal Service began outreach to states in February, before Louis DeJoy became Postmaster General, to collaborate on realistic expectations for ballot delivery timeframes and deadlines as states prepare for the 2020 general election.  While general elections for federal office are set by federal law, state and local laws dictate the dates for primary elections and means for casting ballots for federal, state and local offices.  Eligible voters who wish to vote via absentee ballot can minimize strain on the USPS by requesting a ballot and returning it to an appropriate elections drop box or mailbox as soon as possible. 

Furthermore, the USPS has stated it has the capacity to handle the 2020 election.  Even if 100 million votes were cast via mail in 2020 (about 33 million were cast in 2016), it would represent a small fraction of the mail volume handled by USPS.  For example, the USPS estimated in 2019 it processed and delivered nearly 2.5 billion pieces of First-Class Mail the week before Christmas—its busiest time of the year.  Moreover, in the CARES Act, Congress and President Trump provided an additional $10 billion in loan authority to the Postal Service to assure its efficient operation. 

I am the son of a former postmaster in Idaho and I have great respect for Postal employees.  Postal employees in Idaho connect Idahoans to family, friends and markets across the U.S. and around the world, especially as Americans do their best to social distance.  The USPS can only do so much under its own authorities to cut costs and improve efficiency to uphold this important service, and reform legislation is likely needed.  Any USPS reforms need to be thoroughly and transparently debated before Congress to ensure they do not negatively affect the needs of the American people, especially during this unprecedented time.  The overarching bipartisan goal is to ensure a reliable, efficient and viable Postal Service that serves all Americans in perpetuity. 

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