I’ve seen two flavors of memes going around lately, and they are both problematic.
One directs folks to buy stamps in order to generate income for the post office. The other directs people to do things to vote that don’t depend on our rapidly drowning postal system. Both of these actually scapegoat us into believing we are powerless to deal with the real problem. Don’t fall for it.
The plea to buy stamps saddles the average consumer with the responsibility to save the postal service, much the same way we’ve tried to place responsibility for saving the environment on the consumer. Corporations and policies are much larger contributors to our environmental devastation than whether I buy single serving cheese in plastic, or you use a straw. In both cases, the primary responsibility lies further up the power structure. We are not actually powerless in demanding that change, but we have to do it.
We have to do it because the mail is critical national infrastructure. Because key programs and services still operate by mail (it is the only way Social Security will contact you). Because millions of Americans depend on the mail to get their medications. Because disabled folks rely on the mail for the majority of purchases they make. For me in just the last few months, that included nitrile gloves for my aide, hand sanitizer for all my helpers, a gallon of unscented hand soap, supplements, medications, printer ink cartridges, my heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, pet food, clothes, greeting cards, and food.
You buying a sheet of stamps will not guarantee access to these things. It will not change the bizarre retirement funding requirement for the postal service. It won’t reinstall mailboxes or mail sorting machines. It will not change USPS policy. It will not remove corrupt power (if that is, in fact, a factor). It shouldn’t make you feel better.
We must direct our concerns and demands to the people can who make the real changes.
Contact the lawmakers who are elected to represent you! Demand that they act. Flood their offices, phone lines, emails.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight Reform, has introduced the “Delivering for America” Act. Contact your representative and ask them support it. If you don’t know who your congressperson is, find out! Then start getting to know them. Follow them on Twitter. Sign up for their emails. Contact them when you believe there is something that deserves their attention. If all that feels like too much, do the easiest thing I know, and connect your phone or your Twitter account to Resistbot.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has asked the United States Postal Service inspector general to launch an investigation into the changes in operations. That investigation is now in process.
Investigation, legislation, policy, removing people from positions – those are the kinds of thing that will make changes in the effectiveness of the USPS. We need to be demanding that.
Directing people to find other ways to vote is a tactic for folks with privilege to take care of themselves. And because they are taking care of themselves, allows them to look away from all the things that are making voting hard for others, or at least absolve themselves. After all, they did their part, right?
We must do everything we can to ensure that the greatest number of citizens possible have easy access to voting.
Lots of things make this hard for people. Closing of polling locations. Limited poll hours. Barriers to accessing absentee ballots. Criminal records from a biased law enforcement system. Voter ID requirements. Lack of transportation. Inaccessible polling places. There are so many gaps that need to be addressed.
We cannot allow unreliability of the postal service to add to this.
Lots of people vote by mail. We know many of our elected officials vote by mail. There are states where this is the way it is done for everyone, like Oregon. Folks who are away from their primary residence on election day. Think everyone’s home now? How about medical staff who are travelling for work? Folks who had to stay where they were when shelter in place orders and travel restrictions were put into place. Military personnel and their families who are stationed elsewhere. We keep saying we want young adults to pay attention and engage? Some of those folks are having to make decisions to go back to out of state colleges. And lots of disabled people, myself included, are absentee voters who vote through the mail. When so many hot issues directly affect us right now – health care, social security, violence against disabled BIPOC folks – it is absolutely unacceptable to silence our voices even further.
Saying, “Oh, just take your ballot to the board of elections” ignores all these other factors. Is that a good solution for you? Fine. Do it. Your vote matters and I want it counted. But we need to collectively make the systems work for everyone. I need you to be equally invested in my vote too. And not just my vote, the votes of my friends.
If we don’t demand it, who will?