At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., wrote U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, advocating for additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) “in anticipation of the increased demand on the USPS as more states and jurisdictions allow vote-by-mail ballots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The congressman’s office offered some of the rationale for his letter.
“More than a dozen primary elections throughout our nation have been interrupted by this pandemic, and many Americans have been advised to shelter in place or stay at home. Congress should move quickly to provide USPS funding so that states can successfully implement vote-by-mail systems and ensure that Americans wishing to vote can do so in a way that protects their health and their ballot,” Hastings’ office noted.
The letter is below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer:
As you continue to formulate a Phase IV legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I respectfully urge you to include robust funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help states and jurisdictions successfully implement vote-by-mail systems for the upcoming November elections.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform life across our nation, with millions of Americans sheltering in place to help mitigate the virus’s spread. This strategy has already interrupted and delayed at least 15 primary elections throughout the United States and will likely continue to impact elections through the summer and quite possibly through the end of the year, as medical experts have warned of second- and third-wave outbreaks of COVID-19.
As we continue to adapt to this new reality, Americans must not be forced to choose between the voting box and their health. Therefore, we must take appropriate steps now to ensure all Americans wishing to exercise their franchise are able to do so through primary season and the general election in November in a way that protects their health and their ballot. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decision refusing to extend the deadline for absentee voting in Wisconsin in Republican National Committee, Et Al. v. Democratic National Committee, Et Al. underlines the novel and complicated issues that will quickly be fought in district courts across the country and is evidence of why Congress should move with all due haste to provide states with the ability to implement robust and secure vote-by-mail systems in time for the general election. The USPS will play a central role in all of these systems as ballots are sent out to voters and returned to election officials.
The bipartisan CARES Act signed by President Donald Trump allocated $400 million for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections, increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and poll-workers. The CARES Act, however, only allowed the postal service to borrow up to $10 billion to survive, an insufficient amount for ensuring vote-by-mail programs succeed nationwide. As our country continues to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to ensure the USPS has the resources it needs to accommodate a surge in vote-by-mail ballots to help states ensure its voters are counted.