Rutgers experts discuss US Postal Service, upcoming elections

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy enacted new changes, such as limiting overtime and removing mail sorting machines, to help deal with financial issues within the United States Postal Service, according to an article from USA Today.
Photo by WikimediaPostmaster General Louis DeJoy enacted new changes, such as limiting overtime and removing mail sorting machines, to help deal with financial issues within the United States Postal Service, according to an article from USA Today.

The financial concerns surrounding the United States Postal Service (USPS) have gained increasing public attention over the past few months. Rutgers experts from the Eagleton Institute of Politics discussed these issues and what they mean for the future of the USPS and the upcoming election in November.

The USPS has been facing financial issues for more than a decade, said Eagleton Director and Professor John J. Farmer, Jr.

“A report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office described the fiscal status of USPS as ‘deteriorating and unsustainable,’” Farmer said. “From 2007 to 2018, USPS lost $69 billion and its debt as of 2018 was $143 billion.”

Farmer said that even though the USPS is a government agency, it relies on postage and service sales to fund its operating expenses.

“USPS’ business and revenue took a hit due to a decline in sales and services during the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “This exacerbated the agency’s financial issues.”

Farmer said the rise of digital communication, such as email and social media, has also contributed to these ongoing issues.

In an attempt to help the USPS recover financially, newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has enacted changes intended to cut costs, according to an article from USA Today.

Recent changes, such as eliminating overtime and removing mail sorting machines, have resulted in many delays among other problems, according to the article. These issues have also led to concerns regarding the upcoming presidential election.

With many states choosing vote-by-mail systems, USPS workers and services are being relied on. Due to the USPS’ current financial crisis, some people fear that it will not have enough workers to handle the volume of ballots in a punctual way, Farmer said.

“(But), USPS executives have assured the public that they will be able to handle and process the ballots in a timely manner — explaining that election mail is only estimated to be 2 (percent) of USPS’ daily mail volume,” he said.

Additionally, congressional leaders have proposed a bill calling for $25 billion in funding to make certain that the USPS has the resources it needs to handle the amount of ballots efficiently, Farmer said. As of now, he said, the White House is opposed to this approach.

Elizabeth C. Matto, associate research professor and director of Eagleton’s Center for Youth Political Participation, said that she believes it is important we support mail carriers as they are on the front lines this election.

“Given the important role the USPS will play this year in New Jersey and nationwide, it’s critical not only that (it has) the capacity to deliver ballots to voters and get them submitted in a timely manner, but (also) that the public at large feels confident in (its) ability,” Matto said.

The idea of mail-in voting largely being used this November has caused controversy among some, but Matto said that voting by mail has, in fact, been successfully used by military personnel and American citizens for years without issues.

“When election administrators and the postal service are given the support they need, there is no evidence that this voting method is fraudulent or that it favors one political party over another,” Matto said.

Matto also gave advice to the public on what they should be doing to ensure their votes will be counted.

“The two most important things voters can do are to first check that they are registered and where their ballot is going to be delivered,” Matto said. “If voters want to change the address at which their ballot will be delivered, they must act now.”

Once the ballot has been submitted either by mail or placing it in a secured dropbox, Matto said it is important to double-check that the ballot has been received and counted.“The USPS is invaluable to American citizens — not only on Election Day but (also) every day,”  Matto said. “Tell your local, state and national representatives to support the USPS and its postal carriers.”

Representatives are supposed to reflect our interests and well-being, and if they are not doing that, voters should respond accordingly on Election Day, Matto said.