The president says he opposes providing additional money to the postal service to help it deliver mail-in ballots
Donald Trump admitted on Thursday he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to make it more difficult to deliver mail-in ballots.
Trump’s comments lend evidence for critics who say the president is deliberately trying to hamstring the USPS in advance of the November elections to help his re-election bid.
Trump said on Thursday that congressional negotiations over stimulus aid were held up in part because of Democratic proposals to provide $3.6bn to states to run elections and $25bn in aid to the postal service. The president, who has falsely claimed that widespread mail-in voting will lead to fraud, suggested that without the funding it would be harder to vote by mail.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Congress has allocated just $400m to help states run elections, a small fraction of the $4bn the Brennan Center for Justice estimates is needed this year. Many election officials are scrambling to figure out how they will run an election where there is expected to be an unprecedented level of mail-in and in-person voting. The lack of funding may already be having an effect; in Kentucky, the state’s top election official said this week he did not support expanding mail-in voting for the fall because the state did not have the capacity to do so.
The president’s comments also come amid accusations that Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general and a major Republican donor, is making cuts at the agency to intentionally slow down the mail. There are reports of severe mail delays in places across the country and the Washington Post and other news organizations published internal USPS documents last month saying there was a blanket ban on overtime and that workers were being told to leave mail behind if it will delay them on their routes. A USPS spokesman denied there was a blanket ban on overtime, but did not address questions about whether employees were being told to leave the mail behind.
A slower mail service could have a big impact this fall because an unprecedented number of Americans are expected to vote by mail and many states require a ballot to arrive at an election office by election day, regardless of when it was put in the mail, in order to be counted. At least 65,000 ballots were rejected during the 2020 primaries because they arrived too late.
“If we don’t make a deal that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it. Sort of a crazy thing,” Trump said on Thursday.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in a statement Trump was attacking the US economy and democracy.
“The president of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” he said.
USPS officials have not said they need additional funding to deliver mail-in ballots this fall. “The Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so,” DeJoy said at a meeting of the USPS board of governors on Friday.
In a separate interview on Thursday, Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, dismissed efforts to make it easier to vote in negotiations over stimulus money.
“So much of the Democratic asks are really liberal left wishlists,” he said. “Voting rights, aid to aliens and so forth. That’s not our game.”
Democracy is in peril …
… ahead of this year’s US election. Donald Trump is busy running the largest misinformation campaign in history as he questions the legitimacy of voting by mail, a method that will be crucial to Americans casting their vote in a pandemic. Meanwhile, the president has also appointed a new head of the US Postal Service who has stripped it of resources, undermining its ability to fulfill a crucial role in processing votes.
This is one of a number of attempts to suppress the votes of Americans – something that has been a stain on US democracy for decades. The Voting Rights Act was passed 55 years ago to undo a web of restrictions designed to block Black Americans from the ballot box. Now, seven years after that law was gutted by the supreme court, the president is actively threatening a free and fair election.
Through our Fight to vote project, the Guardian has pledged to put voter suppression at the center of our 2020 coverage. This election will impact every facet of American life. But it will not be a genuine exercise in democracy if American voters are stopped from participating in it.
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