The president has appointed an inexperienced person to a consequential post that has vast political implications in his favor. While that description can apply to any number of people who Donald Trump has put in positions they were woefully unqualified for, he may have outdone himself this time around by making a Republican operative the postmaster general.
The new job for Louis DeJoy puts him in charge of the United States Postal Service at a time when the country was expected to rely on the mail system to help facilitate voting in the upcoming general election. The announcement immediately stoked the flames of suspicion that Trump was trying to rig the election to ensure his victory by directly involving himself in the process of mailing ballots.
The Washington Post described DeJoy as “a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte,” which would seem to be a conflict of interest for a postmaster general position expected to play an outsized role in all facets of voting via mail. CNN called DeJoy a “Trump ally.”
Mail ballots could become the preferred or even default method of voting this year as the coronavirus prompts strict social distance guidelines that have prevented the swift tallying of ballots in states’ primaries. But Trump, perhaps feeling vulnerable to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden‘s candidacy, has encouraged in-person voting and decried mail ballots as being too susceptible to fraud. By discouraging mail ballots, Trump could be betting that Americans could decide against voting in-person over lingering coronavirus fears. A lack of voter participation arguably contributed to Trump’s election in 2016.
With an overwhelming majority of Americans in favor of voting via mail for the 2020 election and a growing sentiment that Trump’s coronavirus response is responsible for the death of thousands of Americans, the president might be looking for unconventional ways to rig the election, like he was suspected of doing four years ago. The postal service, which has been seeking to secure funding that Trump has been accused of holding “hostage,” could be the vehicle the president uses to try to ride to re-election in November.
DeJoy’s first day on the new job was scheduled for June 12 as primaries were still being held, potentially giving him a few months to fine-tune a suspected plan to suppress or otherwise affect votes cast for Election Day.
Aside from the controversial selection for the next postmaster general, there has been an amplified effort to put hurdles in place for voters to cast ballots this year. One of those ways is what’s being called a polling tax, or requiring voters to pay for the postage stamps to mail in their ballots. Activists in Florida have sued the state over the polling tax that could prevent poorer voters from participating in their constitutional rights to cast ballots in a general election. That could start a trend and extend to other states if the postage isn’t provided by the government, potentially putting DeJoy — a trump loyalist through and through — in a position to have the final say.
This is America.