Our View: Postal Blues


The New York Times recently detailed how Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin blocked a $13 billion grant to the U.S. Postal Service which was to be included in the CARES Act legislation. The Washington Post reported that the president threatened to reject the bill if a bailout for the agency was included. A compromise was reached providing the postal service with a $10 billion loan from the treasury department.

The Trump Administration has been critical of the quasi-governmental agency, which the nation has depended on as a communications conduit for more than two centuries. With talk of mail-in ballots replacing in-person voting this fall due to fears of reigniting the coronavirus threat—if it has dissipated by then—it's no wonder. In a recent speech Trump said that increasing access to voting, by, say, allowing people to mail in their vote rather than having to travel to a physical polling place on a workday, would mean that a Republican would never again be elected president. As the Times report found, there's no evidence that mail-in voting changes election outcomes significantly, except to increase participation. If that's something the president and Republicans fear, that's sad.

We support mail-in voting. Three U.S. states currently have all-mail-in voting and there has been no evidence of fraud. But what we don't support is the continuing reliance on a postal infrastructure that is archaic and inefficient. Case in point: There are a combined 11 post offices in Chatham, Harwich and Orleans. That's one post office for every 2,205 year-round residents. Even if summer residents who get mail locally are factored in, that's way more post office per person than is necessary today, when total mail volume is almost half of what it was 20 years ago. Once, a post office helped give a community its identity; and today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it has once again become something that people and businesses depend on, including many local businesses and newspapers like The Chronicle. Still, the agency could benefit greatly by consolidating physical facilities. Implementing those types of efficiencies would better equip the postal service for the challenges of the future as well as a major challenge such as mail-in voting.