International mail suspensions are affecting military personnel — and their ability to vote

Elizabeth Howe
April 27, 2020 - 11:57 am

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Military personnel stationed overseas only had one way of sending voting ballots back home to the United States — the USPS. Because of the continuing reach of the coronavirus pandemic, the USPS has suspended mail services to 111 countries — including ballots. 

The suspensions were put into effect for a number of coronavirus-related reasons. Countries like Bolivia, Kuwait, and South Africa have suspended their own mail services. For Cuba, Costa Rica, and Iraq, there isn't transportation available to help the USPS complete its deliveries. The suspensions also include service for 43 diplomatic (DPO) zip codes — as in those AE zip codes that any military personnel who was ever stationed overseas is familiar with. 

"Policymakers: If mail is the only return option for your military and overseas voters in those countries — they have no way to cast a ballot," Taylor Lansdale, program manager for the Overseas Voting Initiative tweeted over the weekend. 

The organization works specifically to ensure that military personnel and other stationed overseas have the resources and ability to cast votes from outside of the country — but the pandemic has presented the organization with new challenges. 

For a full list of overseas service disruptions, click here

Meanwhile stateside, the USPS — which employs close to 100,000 veterans — continues to fight against the current presidential administration for federal funding relief. 

With 97,000 veteran employees, the United States Postal Service is one of the country’s largest veteran employees. But the USPS has projected it will lose more than $22 billion over the next 18 months as a result of the virus. Long term, that deficit could reach $54 billion and “threaten our ability to operate.”

“As Americans are urged to stay home, the importance of the mail will only grow as people, including those in rural areas and senior citizens, will need access to vital communications, essential packages and other necessities,” Megan J. Brennan, postmaster general and CEO said in a statement.

No coronavirus bailout for one of the country’s largest veteran employers

The USPS has received no federal relief aid thus far. And things aren't looking good for upcoming relief either — unless the USPS significantly raises its prices. 

“The Postal Service is a joke,” President Donald Trump said just last week. He suggested that the USPS raise the price of a package by four times if they want any financial relief from Congress.

All the while, USPS personnel continue to deliver mail, necessities, and more across the country. As of mid-April, 500 postal workers had tested positive for COVID-19, according to information USPS provided lawmakers, and 462 others are presumed to have the virus but have not received official confirmation. At least 19 have died and more than 6,000 are in quarantine because they were exposed.

Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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