Sunday evening, while channel surfing, I saw that Sen. Joe Manchin was being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. It wasn’t my channel destination, but learning that Manchin was discussing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) funding crisis that could affect November’s mail-in ballots, I had to listen. Manchin’s comments were spot-on.
Basically, he said that Congress should be actively addressing the major issues facing this country. But he zeroed in on threatened cuts to the USPS, a lifeline to many West Virginians, especially those in isolated rural areas that lack broadband.
Asked if Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should call the Senate back in session, Manchin responded, “We should have never left.” My personal thought is that Congress should join the category of “essential workers” such as those in meat packing plants, grocery stores and schools.
Manchin indicated he was distressed when he found out 21 West Virginia post offices were notified that there would be closings or cutbacks. Three of these had put up notices they were closing, and the others indicated they were limiting hours. Sounding politically pragmatic, Manchin indicated that someone could have made a mistake but indicated there was still an intent from somewhere to “throttle back the Postal Service.”
Because of COVID-19, I chose to vote by mail in the primary election in Cabell County in June. The process was efficient and uncomplicated. According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, just over 450,000 West Virginians voted, and 49.9% of those ballots were cast by mail.
Now, we are suddenly hearing that the USPS will be unable to handle mail-in ballots in a timely manner for the November election in most states. There’s no reason why West Virginia can’t do as well in handling mail in ballots in November as it did in June as long as the USPS is not made into a shadow of its former self.
COVID-19 will still be here in November, and it’s likely that, as in June, about half of West Virginia voters will choose mail-in ballots. I know I will. Secretary of State Mac Warner says it will again be possible. But what good is voting by mail if the Postal Service is cut so drastically that the ballots can’t be received in time? Is someone trying to disenfranchise those of us who want to avoid catching COVID-19?
Manchin reminds us that the Postal Service is a public service and not for private profit and that Congress needs to make it as efficient as possible, but it’s not going to be able to compete with the private market.
A national election during a pandemic is no time to cut back or disable the USPS. Sen. Manchin is right; Congress needs to get back to work on America’s many problems including making sure that the USPS is not stamped out before the November election.