On July 26, President Donald Trump tweeted, “The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it.” Since then, he has made over 70 disparaging comments regarding mail-in voting.
Many voters in Dutchess County plan to vote by mail-in ballot. According to Commissioner of the Dutchess County Board of Elections (BoE) Elizabeth Soto, the BoE estimates that 75,000 of the currently 202,000 registered voters in Dutchess County intend to vote via mail-in ballot; she expects the number to grow as more people register.
This method of voting has come under fire due to Trump’s consistent accusations that mail-in voting is vulnerable to voter fraud. This rhetoric, paired with major changes made to the USPS system by newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, have shaken the possibility of mail-in voting for the 2020 election.
National and local officials have criticized Trump’s disparaging views of mail-in voting. “I don’t understand how it could be rigged,” said Soto. She described how the extensive process of applying for a ballot, receiving the ballot and mailing the ballot back renders the voting process safe. She mentioned that even if someone mails a ballot and then votes in person, fraud does not happen. Their mail-in ballot would not count.
Since DeJoy’s appointment, post offices nationwide have experienced the removal of postal boxes and sorting machines, and reduced overtime for employees. While Soto said she did not know of any alterations to the Poughkeepsie Post Office, she mentioned that USPS removed sorting machines in Monroe County.
Soto described several protocols local officials plan to implement to allow timely and effective mail-in voting. For the primary election in June, the local post office called the Dutchess County Board of Elections when they received ballots, and then members of the BoE collected the ballots so as to not burden the post office. For the upcoming election, the post office asked that the Dutchess County BoE inform them how many voters plan to mail their ballots so they can prepare an ample amount of stamps.
As for when voters return the ballots, Soto said: “I can’t give [the post office] an indication of when the ballots are coming back, but it will be fast and furious.” If voters do not want to mail their ballots back, Soto said there will be a drop box for ballots on election day during polling hours.
Additionally, Soto explained that there is a new law that allows the local government to mail back ballots incorrectly completed or packaged. Voters can then correct their ballots and return them. To better inform residents, the Dutchess County Board of Elections is releasing educational flyers that detail how to vote via mail.
Several Dutchess County residents are outspoken about their support of the local post office. On August 22, protestors convened outside the Poughkeepsie Post Office for a “Save the Post Office” rally. Democratic candidates for the 41st Senate district and Dutchess County Judge seats Karen Smythe and Jessica Segal, respectively, spoke in support of the post office along with several local advocacy groups. Protesters shared that they hoped this event would raise awareness about the many injustices happening to the USPS.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Hudson Valley Strong-Indivisible and the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance (DCPAA) organized the demonstration. DCPAA shared on their Facebook page that the protest serves to criticize Trump and defend the postal system. “We need to make noise and show that we have had enough of Trump’s actions and going after the Post Office is crossing a line we will not tolerate…There is power in numbers,” they wrote.
They continued, “This should alarm every American who cares about a free and fair 2020 election…And it isn’t just about voter suppression. Americans are using the USPS even more so during this pandemic to stay in touch with loved ones, to receive life-saving medications and to keep up with the news.”
In response to the delays in delivery, Postmaster General Dejoy stated that he will halt all changes to the postal system until after the 2020 election, though many argue this is not enough and demand he reverse some of the new protocols. Additionally, Democratic leaders have proposed the Delivering for America Act, which would prevent the USPS from implementing changes that decrease its effectiveness for one year, and provide $25 billion in financial support. The bill has passed the House and is awaiting confirmation in the Senate.