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The Postmaster General’s Manufactured Mail Slowdown and Racial Inequality

Compared to the national average, mail delay complaints are nearly 50 percent higher in zip codes with populations that are more than 45 percent Black, Indigenous, or other people of color.

For nearly 250 years, USPS has been a cherished giant of public life. (Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

For nearly 250 years, USPS has been a cherished giant of public life. (Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

With just days until the 2020 election, the U.S. Postal Service is handling a historic surge in mail-in voting.

At the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), our recent analysis of USPS records, which we received via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, suggests that the number of mail-delivery complaints has risen since March, especially in communities of color.

9 in 10 people in the United States approve of the Postal Service, making it the most popular government agency.

For nearly 250 years, USPS has been a cherished giant of public life. Its reach is immense: In 2019, postal workers traveled 1.34 billion miles to deliver nearly 143 billion pieces of mail around the globe. Its employees number more than 630,000, and it handles 48 percent of the world’s mail.

Its size has not tarnished its image: 9 in 10 people in the United States approve of the Postal Service, making it the most popular government agency.

But this year, the USPS faces new challenges. The pandemic has depressed its revenue. Cost-cutting measures by the Postmaster General have strained its work. And millions of voters have already mailed ballots.

How is the USPS faring under this pressure? How did we get here? And how can we ensure that all mail, including ballots, are delivered on time?

Taryn MacKinney

Taryn MacKinney is an investigative researcher for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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