The United States Postal Service has been playing a starring role in debate over how the US presidential election will take place amid a pandemic.
As the coronavirus continues to wreck havoc on the US, many Americans are considering voting by mail in the upcoming election.
But the US postal service has warned almost all 50 states that ballots might not be able to be delivered on time.
Why is this happening?
The postal service has been losing money for years and in June, US President Donald Trump appointed a Republican donor and tasked him with making the government agency profitable.
The Trump appointee cut overtime for postal workers, late delivery trips and other expenses that ensure that the mail arrives on time which has resulted in a national slowdown of mail.
The postal service is now waiting on billions of dollars in potential funding from coronavirus relief legislation but left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans have yet to agree on funding.
Trump said the money Democrats wanted for the postal service would allow for universal mail-in voting, which he falsely claims his opponents support for the election.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said in a Fox Business Network interview on Thursday. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”
It comes as Trump has also repeatedly claimed that there would be widespread fraud by mail in voting.
Why are people concerned?
Many Americans have said that due to the pandemic they would like to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election and many states are expanding access to mail-in voting. States also saw mail-in voting increase during the primaries.
This means that the volume of mail is expected to increase this election. Just five states currently do use universal mail in voting systems – sending ballots by mail and having voters return them by mail.
Democrats in Congress have now demanded that postal service officials testify before a House committee over the mail delays.
“The postmaster general and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election,” congressional Democrats said in a statement announcing the hearing.
Some states could ask to move the voting deadline for receiving mail in ballots ahead of the election.
Pennsylvania asked a court to move the deadline for receiving mail ballots back to three days after the November 3 election, provided the ballots were placed in the mail before polls close on Election Day.
The Postal Service is the country’s most popular government agency with 91% of Americans having a favourable opinion of the service, according to a Pew Research Centre Survey published in April.
“What concerns me is an all-out attack, they’re not even hiding it, by the president of the United States to undermine the United States Postal Service, to underfund it, to allow a mega-donor leading it to overtly do things to slow down the mail,” said Democratic Senator Cory Booker on CNN.