US election: Method Americans use to vote could become story of 2020

Nothing about 2020 in America has been predictable.

An unexpected pandemic brought a mighty nation to its knees, the death of a black man sparked an international moment of racial reckoning, and a buoyant economy plunged into recession.

But there’s even more jeopardy to add to the mix now – and in Detroit, Michigan, you can really feel it.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy arrives at a meeting at the office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for an agreement on how to move forward on a new relief package to help people and businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic continue today at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US post ‘choked’ to ‘undermine confidence’

Plenty of people we spoke to aren’t certain the country will get a result on election night. And if things don’t go well for Donald Trump, they’re not sure he’ll accept it.

The fact is, the method Americans use to vote could become the story of 2020.

More people than ever before will be placing votes.

Yet the president has called the United States Postal Service (USPS) a “joke” – claiming without evidence, that universal mail in voting is riddled with fraud and can’t be trusted.

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Meanwhile, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been making controversial cuts many blame for big delays in deliveries.

At a post office in Detroit, a crowd of Democratic leaders and union workers are enraged, casting Mr Trump’s criticism of USPS as an act of political sabotage.

Congressman Dan Kildee tells the crowd: “The president of the United States is choking off essential support to USPS in order to prevent people from casting their ballot. Shame on him.”

In this city workers have already had their overtime cut and are doing six-day weeks.

Vital deliveries like medication are being delayed.

One man tells me four sorting machines that can process more than 30,000 items every hour have been removed from just one station.

And yet there is a defiant faith in the agency.

Joe Biden formally nominated as the Democratic challenger to Trump

Joe Biden formally nominated as the Democratic challenger to Trump

Many gathered firmly believe the postal service will do what’s needed.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who used to work for the service, tells me: “USPS has a much longer tenure and trust with the American people than Donald Trump… the postal service is the only organisation that every single day touches every single household, six days a week.”

There are counties in Michigan and elsewhere though that are already working on a Plan B – setting up drop boxes for people to leave their ballots instead of posting them.

What isn’t clear is whether the president’s criticism of the agency will undermine public faith in the electoral process and stop them voting at all.

Roscoe Woods, president of America’s Postal Workers Union, told me: “By screwing with delivery standards and delaying mail, you undermine public confidence.”

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He says right now they have a 91% approval rating.

It is perhaps why Democrats were able to so effectively campaign against cuts.

The Post Master General has now suddenly said he’s delaying reforms until after the election to prevent it looking like they’re trying to interfere with it.

But there’s a long way to go – 78% of people will be eligible to vote by mail this year.

It’s going to put the system under unprecedented pressure.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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