“Mail call!” The 1MC* aboard the USS Marvin Shields sent out the call and a dozen division mail clerks scurried to pick up the mail for the sailors in their Division.

This call has been heard aboard naval vessels for generations. Prior to access to email, paper-based “snail mail” was the only way that our sailors received news and information about what was happening “back home,” wherever that might be. Births, deaths and other announcements jumped off the paper and into the imaginations of our sailors serving aboard ships.

Today’s headlines include news regarding a “Friday Night Massacre” of US Postal Service (USPS) upper management employees. The President of the United States has appointed a Postmaster General who seems intent on dismantling the infrastructure that currently in place. The results of these changes seem designed to hamper the ability of USPS employees to do their most basic task: deliver the mail.

Why would the Postmaster General do this? There are many guesses. But his financial ties to numerous entities that are in competition with USPS seems suspicious. So it’s not clear that his actions are in the best interest of the USPS.

Why would the President of the United States do this? My cynical self says he’s simply trying to rig the system to suppress the vote of people who are likely to vote against him.

The general election in 2020 will be primarily a vote-by-mail election. States that have a strong history with this process will continue as they normally do. States that are new to widespread vote-by-mail will need some assistance. The one thing they all have in common is the USPS.

The USPS will be under-the-gun to deliver ballots to voters in a timely manner. Even more importantly, they will be asked to deliver MILLIONS of ballots in short-order to thousands of county registrars across our nation. The biggest impediment to getting this done in a timely manner, is financial. Cuts made to USPS have already caused a delay in mail delivery under normal loads. What is expected to happen when a HUGE slug of mail hits the system.

Far too many ballots will arrive a registrars offices AFTER the deadlines and will go uncounted. These are ballots that were mailed in good faith with the expectation that USPS would deliver that 1st class mail item with the same timeliness that has been the standard for dozens of years. The result of this will be that many 1st-time voters, or people who normally vote at the polls will have their essential rights stolen from them by a political appointee.

People like the late Congressman John Lewis gave much of themselves to ensure that people of color had the opportunity to cast a ballot. Now, a political appointee is going to undo much of that work out of a sense of loyalty to a President that offers no reciprocity.

What to do? In the short term: contact your federal representative and DEMAND that they pass legislation to fund the USPS to the levels needed in order to provide the services we need to ensure that an all-mail election can be held successfully.

In the long term, we need to ensure that the position of Postmaster General is one that is above the political fray that is currently bogging our nation down.

What else can you do? Write a letter to someone. It will bring a smile to their face as it will to you when they send a letter back to you.

*1MC is the ship-wide communication system used to make announcements on ships that were in-service in the 80’s / 90’s.

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