In the face of reorganization and cutbacks in the U.S. Postal Service, and the admission by President Donald Trump in a Fox Business Network interview that he is seeking to cut the post office’s funding to prevent mail-in voting, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee on Thursday held a forum on both voting and the mail.
The voting procedures have been cast in a new light in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people worrying it may not be safe to go to a polling place on election day and seeking other options. This year, all voters in Virginia are eligible to vote absentee by mail or early in person. But the Trump administration has sought to quash mail-in voting, both with a post office funding crunch and lawsuits across the country.
Lloyd Deckman of the National Association of Postal Carriers, the union for post office employees, urged participates in the Aug. 13 forum to call federal lawmakers and urge them to include post office funding in any stimulus package. He said it’s already too late for other legislation—“It’s not going to be in effect by November.”
“This goes against everything we’ve ever been taught, and as a matter of fact, three months ago if you tried to do this they’d fire you,” Deckman said of some of the changes at the post office, such as delaying mail rather than letting employees take on overtime to deliver it. “… Nobody seems to understand why. The thing I’m getting is, he [Postmaster GeneralLouis DeJoy]’s trying to run the postal service as a for-profit business, not a public service.”
But the post office, he said, can handle mail-in voting.
“Normally we do 450 million pieces a day,” Deckman said. “The Christmas crunch, 600 million a day. We’re doing somewhere around 300 million now. So absolutely, the post office can handle nationwide absentee balloting, or vote by mail, if everybody has to do it. Not a problem. As long as the postmaster doesn’t handcuff us with processing the mail.”
In 2016, about 138 million people voted in the November general election.
Deckman said it is the latest blow in a decades-long fight to privatize the wok of the post office. Doing that, he argued, would cause rates to go up and delivery to suffer, likening it to internet service providers’ sluggishness or unwillingness to extend broadband internet into rural communities.
“He’s done more damage to the Post Office in eight weeks than any natural disaster or recession of depression has,” Deckman said. “This is a well-planned attack.”
State Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-31) said after conversations with Virginia Department of Elections Deputy Commissioner Jessica Bowman, it may be possible through the state’s regulatory authority to set up secure drop boxes for ballots at early voting sites, which she said has been done in other states. Those could also be funded with CARES Act money, she said. She also pointed out that, by law, polling places are supposed to offer curbside voting to elderly or disabled people who feel they can’t go into their polling place.
“We’re just going to have put our heads together and do the best we can,” Favola said. “Local committees like this Loudoun Democratic Committee are going to be a strong partner in helping us inform people.”
State Del. Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10) said, while the delays for mailing are only expected to be a few days, her concern is for people who will wait for the last minute to request or mail their ballot.
“Let’s just make sure everyone we know knows that while the mail is safe. Let’s just not do it last minute,” Gooditis said. “And this goes for us who have friends and family overseas, in the military—this is extra, extra important for those people.”
In Loudoun there are three ways to vote—voting at home by mail, voting early in person, or voting on election day at a polling place.
To vote by mail, apply to vote absentee by mailonline through the Virginia Department of Elections, orapplications may also be downloadedfrom theVirginia Department of Elections, printed out, and mailed, faxed or emailed to the Loudoun CountyOffice of Elections and Voter Registration.
The deadline to request a ballot be mailed is Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. Ballots will not be mailed until Sept. 18, but voters may apply for one now.
Ballots come with instructions on how to complete them. A completed mail ballot must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 to be counted.The status of a ballot—applied, approved or received—can be tracked on theVirginia Department of Elections Citizen Portal.
Voting early in person is available at the Office of Elections in Leesburg beginning Sept. 18, with extended hours and additional early voting sites opening Saturday, Oct. 17.Look up all early voting sites and hours here. Social distancing measures will be in place at all locations, face coverings are required when entering county facilities, and curbside voting is available for individuals who have mobility issues.The last day to vote early in person is Saturday, Oct. 31.
And voting in person on election day continues as normal, including curbside voting, with social distancing measures in place and face coverings required inside buildings. Find your polling place here.
The deadline to register to vote or update your information is Tuesday, Oct. 13. Visit loudoun.gov/novemberelection for more information about voting in the November general election in Loudoun.