Editorial: Voting and post office are central to democracy

When President Trump came right out and said he wanted to withhold funding from the U.S. Postal Service as part of an effort to cripple its ability to process mail-in ballots, many Americans felt an institution that has been vital to the nation since Benjamin Franklin served as postmaster general was being politicized for the president’s personal gain. 

Across the country, tens of millions of Americans depend on the postal service for many items vital to their lives, including critical medications. In rural areas, the two institutions you see nearly everywhere are a volunteer fire department staffed by selfless men and women and a post office — both are part of the fabric of every American community, big or small.

Yet, here was the president speaking his mind: To help shut down widespread mail-in voting he favored holding back funds from the postal service. This is how he put it when he addressed the issue of funding for the postal service: 

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. But 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.”

Beyond the funding issue, the president’s handpicked postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major GOP fundraiser, appeared earlier this month to have instituted other changes, including removing more than 600 high-speed sorting machines nationwide and removing the iconic deep-blue, standalone mailboxes from neighborhoods across the country, a move that was said to have been reversed at the end of last week after a torrent of criticism.

As of Tuesday, some 20 states were preparing lawsuits against the postal service and Mr. DeJoy, who has also been summoned to testify before Congress about the changes. As he was being called to Congress, Mr. DeJoy announced Tuesday that no more sorting machines or mailboxes would be removed, and that he will form a task force on how to handle election mail. With that announcement, it appeared that the threat to financially cripple the post office may have passed.

The lawsuits are a response to reports across the country that mail was being intentionally delayed in an effort to thwart what is expected to be millions of mail-in ballots in the national election Nov. 3.

It’s perhaps no concidence that, as of this writing, the president is far behind the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, in national polls and nearly daily is charging that this election will be rigged if he loses and tens of millions of mail-in ballots are cast.

Free and fair elections are central to our democracy. They are what makes us a democracy different from nearly every other country on earth. Efforts to inhibit voting by people you don’t think will vote for a particular candidate is grossly un-American and authoritarian and should be condemned by members of the president’s own party. 

To date, only Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney has said mail-in voting does not lead to fraud, as the president has repeatedly insisted. 

Supporters of the president have pushed back on charges that the administration wants to curtail mail-in voting, and have argued that costs at the postal service must be brought under control. Mr. DeJoy’s announcement that removal of sorting machines and mailboxes would be halted is very good news.

But why were they removed from certain communities in the first place? And, more importantly, why was this being done less than three months before the national election? The answers could not be more obvious.