Austin American-Statesman: Doggett: Safeguarding the post box and the ballot box
We all depend upon the United States Postal Service (USPS). Until recently, it has enjoyed broad, bipartisan political support. On Saturday, I expect the House to approve the Delivering for America Act, of which I am a sponsor. This simple, three-page bill, modestly requires USPS to uphold the standards existing last January combined with an appropriation, which the Trump-appointed Board of Governors previously requested to fund postal operations.
In a sincere effort to resolve an unexpected postal crisis, we have carefully designed this legislation to encourage approval by the Republican Senate and President Trump.
After President Trump appointed an activist campaign supporter as Postmaster General, the sabotage began. Mailboxes were removed, machines capable of sorting 35,000 mail pieces hourly were decommissioned, overtime necessary to ensure timely mail delivery was prohibited. On July 10, postal workers were officially advised: “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks...which is not typical.” In short, too often first class mail has been treated as third class.
From these politically motivated, deliberate changes, the harm has been far-reaching. A disabled veteran with Parkinson’s unable to receive medication timely declared: “This is not the America I fought for.” A pastor described how it took almost a month for the church’s newsletter to belatedly reach the congregation. Many voiced concerns about late penalties on bills. A small business owner advised that his packages are “bouncing around the country like a ping pong ball.”
Here, President Trump, hardly known for his veracity, was very frank about his indifference to poor service and adequate postal funding: “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. Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means...they can’t have universal mail-in voting.” Very troubling that he was willing to sacrifice good mail service solely to improve his election chances.
Since the Civil War, vote-by-mail has permitted participation by those unable to physically get to the polls. Since so many of our service members still rely upon it, we even extended our Texas runoffs to ensure their voices are heard.
While all seniors can vote by mail, those under 65 with any physical condition creating a likelihood of injuring their health at the polls may do the same. With COVID-19 infections and deaths surging, amid fall flu season, many Texans can wisely choose this method to protect their health, even those who don’t ordinarily consider themselves disabled. Lack of immunity alone is insufficient, but each individual
decides whether qualified such as considering a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-identified heightened risk factor including pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, cancer, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, smoking or even obesity. You decide for yourself; no disability police decide for you.
You can apply to vote by mail with the Travis County Clerk. To learn more, visit https://doggett.house.gov/voting-safely, or contact me at 512-916-5921 or email@example.com. Applying now means a ballot in September that, when promptly returned, not even Trump can stop.
This week, the Postmaster General announced that he would “suspend” some of his USPS changes. This turnaround shows what public outcry and prompt, effective congressional oversight can accomplish—but much more is required than a pause in the sledgehammering. He must restore what’s broken, including the 58 sorting machines decommissioned in Texas, and authorize adequate personnel to end delays.
For all who qualify, immediately request your application to vote by mail. So very, very much is at stake. Election Day is not just November 3. It is the September day when you receive your ballot and can vote safely in the comfort of your home.
In these painful times, let’s protect the health of one another from this awful disease and protect the health of our beleaguered democracy from a dangerous, ongoing threat.