Officials must breathe life back into U.S. Postal Service to preserve integrity of our democracy

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Without a surge of funding, voting by mail will be undermined during a crucial election

Illustration of the American flag sticking out of a stack of USPS delivery boxes, topped by ballot boxes.
Jericho Tang/Staff

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Cries to save the U.S. Postal Service, or USPS, are ringing across the country. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has cut overtime, limited post office hours, removed mailboxes and taken other actions to obliterate its efficiency. These measures erode the ability of college students — a group whose turnout has historically lagged — to vote, increasing the importance of informing these young voters.

The gravity of voting by mail during a presidential election season and a pandemic has cast a spotlight on the USPS, which serves all Americans, despite rain, snow or highly contagious disease. Not only is it an essential service for folks in rural areas and small businesses, but the post office also upholds our democracy. 

Voter turnout in the United States is notoriously low; only about 60% of adults vote in presidential elections. In our culture of civic disengagement, one would expect turnout in 2020 to fall even further. However, bills to fund the USPS and expanding voting options can bolster our democracy this year.

Although the grassroots efforts across social media to save the USPS are well intentioned, only a surge of funding from the federal government can revive the post office. On Aug. 22, the House passed the Delivering for America Act, which would provide a much-needed $25 billion for the post office. However, the Senate is unlikely to pass this bill, given its provisions compelling DeJoy not only to halt removal of mailboxes, but also to replace those previously removed and drive the USPS back up to speed.

For now, the federal government has failed the U.S. voting infrastructure. As a result, it is crucial for officials at the state and local levels to draw attention to safe methods of voting and to push out the vote. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to send a vote-by-mail ballot to each Californian and extended the vote-by-mail deadline by two weeks. But Alameda County and UC Berkeley must also take charge to ensure that as many people who wish to vote — especially those in underrepresented communities and college students — can have their voices heard. 

Alameda County and local representatives must expand the number of drop-off ballot boxes, and UC Berkeley must aid the county. Broadcasting information about where and when students and community members can vote (USPS recommends mailing your ballot by Oct. 20) is key, as is getting people registered with their most up-to-date information.

The ASUC external affairs vice president must grind to get ballot boxes placed at accessible locations on campus. Several email blasts and announcements by administration would also aid in getting college students out to vote. Campus could also make election day a holiday and reinforce relationships with voting organizations on and off campus, such as the current partnership with CalPIRG, to increase saliency on the importance of voting. 

Strengthening our democracy should not be a partisan take. We must take the fate of our democracy into our own hands, so come October, fill out your ballots and vote.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.