By Lauren Turman
After a significant slow-down of mailing in Chester County, Pa., residents say they will not vote by mail on November 3 out of fear of political manipulation.
Pennsylvania has reported over 130,000 COVID-19 cases and has remained amongst 14 other states with the highest confirmed cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to having such high numbers, Pennsylvania is an established political battleground state. Votes from this state, whether in-person or by mail, will make a significant difference in the outcome of the presidential election.
The beginning of the slow-down in early April became more difficult when the USPS was informed that several employees at the West Chester post office contracted COVID-19 immediately following the death of a postal service delivery man. The Daily Mail reported that the CDC had found no evidence of coronavirus spreading through the mail, so that office was not shut down or suspended.
Borough residents have expressed their concerns directly to the USPS, and as of August, the Daily Mail reported a much smaller number of requests for mail-in ballots than anticipated.
Louis DeJoy's Impact on Voting
The appointment of Postmaster General and Republican Party fundraiser Louis DeJoy and his subsequent management of the USPS has made majority-Democratic Chester County favor casting an in-person ballot and face coronavirus. DeJoy's policies to terminate overtime, leave mail behind to quicken the workday, and lower office hours have caused sizable delivery delays across Pennsylvania and several other states, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"I don't trust DeJoy at all," said Faith Johns, a college student and Collegeville, Pa., resident. "He was barely able to answer any questions that had to do with policy changes or how slow mail has been in COVID-19."
After substantial questioning of his management, DeJoy's testified before the House Oversight Committee, which criticized his actions since his appointment in June and questioned his motives for cutting costs. During the hearing, Democratic Representative Katie Porter asked DeJoy how much it costs to mail a postcard, to which he responded, "I don't know."
"I just don't think he's very knowledgeable. He couldn't even hold up in Congress. I definitely won't be letting him control my vote," Johns said.
Just six days before his testimony, DeJoy stated that he is trying to improve the system. He also explained that he came to the Postal Service to make changes for the success of the organization and that he would deliver election mail on time and with "well established" service standards.
Even with his statement, unsorted mail is still piling up in many Philadelphia area post offices, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Residents have called the local post office hundreds of times to find out why their mail had not arrived, according to Chester County Postal Service Spokespersn Raymond V. Daiutolo.
"We've been receiving less and less ever since April. I understand that everything happening with corona might have made things a bit worse in the beginning, but there should be no reason why I'm getting less mail now than I was in April. Some days, we don't even see any," said Yolanda George Turman, a West Chester resident.
After corresponding coronavirus numbers, the impact that DeJoy is making on the Postal Service, and a very tight race for the presidential election, John's and George Turman's decision to vote in-person reflects an increasing opinion in the Chester area.
West Chester Residents Are Not Voting by Mail
Tyler Williams, a 20-year-old college student, and resident of West Chester, Pa., has not received any mail in the past four days. Her aunt works at a local post office, and she says that neither of them has ever experienced such a lapse in the mailing process.
"I could have bills due. I could have anything. I literally feel like I don't know what could be coming my way," she said. "My aunt is struggling, and I know she's overwhelmed, too."
Initially, Williams was going to vote by mail to become less susceptible to contracting COVID-19. After reading about DeJoy's policy changes and learning of his Republican affiliation, she immediately changed her mind.
"I think I read a CNN article with all of these budget cuts [and] things that he was going to do, and I was not happy," said Williams. "If they can't get my mail here as a citizen, why would I ever expect [USPS] to count my vote or not to switch it to benefit Republicans?"
In the West Chester postal district, college students Williams and Johns are among a large and increasing number of students that are keeping the tradition of voting in-person. Seven of 10 West Chester University students stated that they are voting in person because they don't believe mail-in ballots will stay honest, according to a self-conducted poll. Additionally, nine of 10 post-college graduates say that they will go to the polls for the same reason.