August 26, 2020

Demonstrators Urge: “Save the Post Office,” “Protect the Vote”

SAVE THE POST OFFICE: About 50 demonstrators, all masked and social distancing, gathered outside the Alexander Road Post Office in Carnegie Center at 11 a.m. Saturday to protest attacks on the United States Postal Service, and to defend the postal system that people depend on and that will be counted on to deliver and return vote-by-mail ballots in the upcoming election.(Photo courtesy of Coalition for Peace Action)

By Donald Gilpin

Calling on authorities to “save the post office,” “defend democracy,” and “protect the right to vote,” about 50 demonstrators gathered at the Alexander Road Post Office in Carnegie Center on Saturday morning, August 22, as part of more than 800 nationwide rallies that day.

“Our demand today is that the post office continues to do its job and deliver our ballots quickly to us and then back to our county governments for counting,” said event co-organizer Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist and Princeton University professor emeritus in the Program on Science and Global Security.

In the event co-sponsored by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), von Hippel joined with Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Princeton University Computer Science Professor Andrew Appel, CFPA board member and Treasurer Mark Pepper, and CFPA Chair Irene Goldman in calling on Congress to protect the postal service from Trump administration attacks, and to act to safeguard the integrity of the mail and the upcoming election, which  during the pandemic will be conducted more than ever before through mail-in ballots.

Speakers also called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to resign in the wake of slowdowns and service cuts. “These rallies give notice that we are alert to what is happening in our country,” said von Hippel. “They let our elected officials and other people inside our government, including the post office, know that we will support them if they defend our democracy.”

Decrying an “attack on the postal service” and an attack on people’s right to vote,” Zwicker expressed optimism that people across the country were “coming out to let their voices be heard, to say, ‘Don’t mess with my mail, save our United States Postal Service and protect democracy.’” 

Zwicker described legislation he is promoting  in the New Jersey State Legislature that ensures that people can track their mail-in ballots on a state website.  “We have to be sure that every single vote is counted, because every single vote matters,” he said.

“How dare the president use the USPS as a pawn to win an election and acknowledge to the people that that is what he is doing,“ said a statement read by Goldman from Jonette Smart, president of the Trenton branch of the NAACP. “Now is the time for Americans of all backgrounds to stand as one America and demand full services restored to the USPS. The USPS is an institution that no matter where you live, what color you are, how much money you make, works for all American people.”

Goldman, in a telephone conversation Monday, pointed out that health protocols required that the gathering be limited to about 50, and she praised the demonstrators for all wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing as they listened and cheered, many with posters and banners, outside the post office building. 

She emphasized the importance of paper ballots, which the CFPA has advocated for many years, and she criticized “the abuse of power” of the Trump administration in attempting “to decimate the USPS.” 

She continued, “That is unconscionable, and Donald Trump’s intention was to limit the USPS so that absentee ballots would be diminished, voting by mail would be diminished, and therefore controlling votes to disenfranchise enormous groups of people. The president is using the tactic of fear to control the vote. I trust the U.S. postal system. I do not trust the current postmaster general to protect and provide the service on which this country has depended for centuries.” 

Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello, by phone Monday, stated that more than 250,000 ballots for the November 3 election will be printed starting in early September and mailed out, with return postage paid, by the first week in October to all registered voters in Mercer County. 

“The system worked out well in the July primary,” Covello said. “Everybody got their ballots.” She urged voters to fill out the ballots and mail them right back or drop them in one of the county drop boxes, where ballots will be picked up by election officials. The county will have a total of 13 drop boxes, one of which will be at the municipal building in Princeton. Ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received within seven days of the election.

Covello stated that her office was proceeding with the mailing of ballots in accordance with an executive order from the governor, regardless of pending lawsuits by the Trump campaign against New Jersey and by the New Jersey attorney general against the post office to restore cuts in budget and service.

Covello, who has been county clerk, implementing vote-by-mail since 2008, stated, “I am concerned that the mail must go through for vote-by-mail to be effective.  We’ve never had any problems with vote-by-mail. In fact, most people find it to be a safer option than voting machines because you have a paper trail. So I find it to be a very reliable method of voting. I’m disappointed that people are having concerns about it now all of a sudden.”