Brief - The Hustle

America’s postal workers did an insane amount of work for the election

Written by Trung T. Phan | Nov 4, 2020 10:07:48 AM

We need to give props where props are due: America’s postal workers have been grinding.

In the lead-up to yesterday’s election, 90m+ voters had received mail-in ballots, with 60m already returning their votes before Election Day.

In a recent profile, the New York Times highlighted the incredible challenges facing US Postal Service (USPS) workers to keep the gears of democracy turning.

It has been a ridiculously hard year

The USPS is one of America’s largest employers, with a workforce of nearly 500k career employees. Few government employees are more visible than the postal worker.

As the organization’s (unofficial) motto goes, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” keeps postal workers from delivering mail.

This year, they’ve added “international pandemic” to the mix. To date, at least 101 postal workers have died from COVID-19.

Over the summer, the newly installed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, “moved to curtail overtime and get rid of sorting equipment” only to backtrack after public outcry.

Implementing “extraordinary measures” for the election

Per the NYT, the typical process for mail-in ballots is as follows:

  1. It’s dropped in blue box or handed to carrier
  2. It’s usually separated from regular mail
  3. It’s taken to a plant and sorted
  4. It’s delivered to the nearest election office

A week and a day out from the election, the USPS began expediting mail-in ballots, “taking them straight to local election offices and even delivering them on Sundays if need be.”

All logistics were further complicated by different state-by-state rules, making a 12-16 hour workday standard for employees.

The politicization of the process

While one postal worker says they’re treating mail “like gold,” the current administration’s attempt to discredit mail-in votes has led some voters to question the process.

“Postal workers bristle at the accusation that they might be mishandling citizens’ ballots,” writes the NYT. “Their mandate is to uphold what they call their universal service obligation, a commitment to deliver mail to and from every part of America.”

For tens of millions of voters, they’ve done just that.