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How the U.S. Mail Became a Presidential Campaign Issue

A United States Postal Service letter carrier wears a protective mask while delivering mail in Fairfax, Virginia on May 19.

A United States Postal Service letter carrier wears a protective mask while delivering mail in Fairfax, Virginia on May 19.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
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Rarely has the U.S. Postal Service found itself a top issue in a presidential election. But the coronavirus has turned up the pressure in two ways. It’s exacerbated the postal service’s balance-sheet problems, making the agency more in need of direct government help. At the same time, record numbers of Americans are expected to receive and cast their ballots by mail in advance of the Nov. 3 election, hoping to avoid crowds of people at polling places. That prospect greatly troubles President Donald Trump, who is on those ballots seeking a second term, and who has specifically tied postal service funding to the vote-by-mail issue.

Trump has warned that what he calls “universal mail-in voting” will result in “the most corrupt election in our nation’s history” and at one point even suggested that delaying the election until the pandemic eases would be a preferable option. He says he supports use of absentee ballots as in past elections -- by voters who request one in advance because they have an Election Day conflict -- but objects to making them broadly available to most or all voters, requested or not. “With millions of mail-in ballots being sent out, who knows where they are going, and to whom?” he tweeted on June 22. There’s no evidence that voting by mail opens the door to widespread fraud and little evidence to support another Trump contention, that vote-by-mail “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”