Is an election disaster inevitable?

USPS photo

I’m no alarmist, I leave that to those who are arming themselves for the next great revolution, but I do think we are heading for an election crisis in November.

I’m going to throw politics out of the argument, there are plenty of people who get their talking points from their politician/pundit du jour who can take that tact. I want to speak observationally and objectively.

My father moved from his home of 45 years in early July. Like many of us, he filled out that convenient form to have his mail automatically forwarded to his new address. Those of us who move often know that can be hit-or-miss, but it gives you a head start on updating your address with the plethora of people you didn’t even realize needed to updated.

About three weeks after moving, he said, “I’m not really getting any mail,” so to test the system, I sent a dummy envelope to his former address. I will generously say I sent it in early August, but I’m tempted to say late July.

He received it Sept. 17.

So, yay USPS. I suppose you held up your end of the bargain, whether I feel the delivery time was acceptable or not.

The USPS being the butt of the joke is nothing new. It has been struggling financially for years. How many of us have used “the check is in the mail” as an excuse? How many of us have had important mail delivered late, or not at all?

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

While the postal service points out has no official motto, these words chiseled above the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue have, over the years, become synonymous with the expectations we have for the service.

Nowadays, when you read that, do you think of ideal public servant? Or Newman from Seinfeld? Be honest.

Many know the postal service needs assistance and reform. Nothing against postal workers — I’ve known many dedicated and hard-working USPS employees in my lifetime. But the critics are right when they argue that the USPS is a bloated, bureaucratic mess, and exhibit A as to the shortcomings of government-run agencies.

Others prefer to privatize the service and have the government wash its hands of it. I have no doubt the president and his appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy are among them, and they have a lot of support from their constituents. Amusingly, many of those who preach the Constitution is not a living document would readily privatize a constitution obligation, but I digress.

To the point, service was suffering before COVID and has gotten much worse this summer. Some of that can be attributed to the pandemic, for sure, but policies enacted by Trump’s appointee (since walked back) were a huge contributor and have eroded confidence in the USPS just as states are dumping a huge, unprecedented number of election ballots into the mail system.

Mail-in ballots are nothing new, we used to call them absentee ballots. For four years of college, like the president these last few years, I filled them out because I couldn’t be home to cast my ballot in person. It’s a confusing, tedious, frustrating process, and once you send it back through the mail, you hope someone might receive it and actually count it.

In response to COVID, states, to varying degrees, have increased the number of ballots they are mailing out. Some are sending them to all registered voters. On paper, this may make sense, but in practice, like so many well-intentioned solutions, the potential to fail miserably seems quite likely.

The USPS says it will prioritize ballots. I hope so, but I don’t have a lot of faith. When I was in college, my Dad and I enjoyed testing the system: He’d send me a manilla envelope of papers and a Priority Mail package on the same day. Invariably, the manilla envelope would arrive in days, the “priority” mail in a week or two. And we were paying extra for that benefit.

I hope I’m wrong, but if you plan to vote by mail, get that ballot in ASAP.

Think of it. Tons of additional ballots relying on an overtaxed USPS. Deadlines set by the states that may or may not be possible to meet. It all sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Despite the stereotypes, I believe many public servants are highly dedicated and capable of achieving more than we might think is possible under trying conditions, but honestly, I think they are being set up for failure.

Add to that equation no clear winner declared after polls close. Ballots being counted hours, days, weeks (?) after election day. Pundits screaming from all sides on the airwaves. A polarized electorate — brandishing guns at state houses and blunt objects in the streets — all at each other’s throats. President Trump, who has been laying the groundwork to claim a “rigged” election for months, even years, will seem prophetic.

Put it all together, we could be in for an election crisis that would make Bush v Gore seem pale in comparison.

Originally published at

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