VALPARAISO — Drivers honked and waved in support of the U.S. Postal Service as more than a dozen protesters waved signs Saturday in support of voting by mail and keeping the 245-year-old public agency afloat.
Jon Groth was one of the first to show up at the Valparaiso Post Office Saturday morning to show his support for the postal service.
Groth served in the Army from 1970 to 1972, stationed in Germany, he said. Members of the military cast absentee ballots by mail.
“I’ve sent mail from Africa, from Europe, and I can’t remember anything ever getting lost,” he said.
Reactions Saturday morning included “a lot of thumbs up and waves,” Groth said. “I haven’t gotten the finger yet.”
A few drivers rolled down their windows and yelled, “Trump 2020.”
President Donald Trump has railed against voting by mail, saying it creates too many opportunities for fraud. He has not presented evidence in support of his claim.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed by Trump, is heavily invested in USPS competitors. Under his leadership, the postal service has removed a number of mail drop boxes throughout the nation and dismantled electronic sorting machines.
Some Americans have complained that mail delivery is being slowed, delaying prescriptions and other essential mail.
Susan Swarner, on the Valparaiso Democratic Committee, stressed the importance of protecting the mail service during the pandemic, especially with the presidential election this year.
In Indiana, an absentee ballot that doesn’t arrive by noon on Election Day isn’t counted, regardless of the postmark.
“We need to save our post office. It’s an iconic American system that has worked well for many years,” Sue Anderson said.
Changes are being made without any science or statistics or data offered in support, she said.
“I don’t know how you can have a democracy unless you can vote,” said Terry Anderson, Sue’s husband.
“I’m sympathetic to reducing post office costs in line with the reduced mail volume since the invention of email,” Lou Denkle said, but he criticized “the arrival of all this magical cost-cutting” without providing reasons for the actions.
“It appears to be voter suppression in a different way,” he said.
“I’m very much against the privatization of essential services in this country,” Drew Wenger said.
Valparaiso Democrats are sending a mailer to registered voters to detail how to ask for an absentee ballot, he said.
“I guarantee you it’s going to be a very high turnout election year,” Wenger said.
A record number of absentee ballots were cast in Porter County this spring, more than 15 times the 941 cast in 2016.
Indiana is one of a handful of states that require absentee voters to provide a reason they can’t vote in person. That rule was waived for the primary but not for the general election.
Wenger said voting in person is problematic for the elderly because it increases their risk of exposure to COVID-19. The majority of poll workers are older, too.
“A lot of them cancel last minute,” he said.
Carol McCreery and Frances Saar are voting absentee or early this year because they are planning to be poll workers. Saar has worked the polls for the past 20 or so elections, she said.
“I think it’s terrible, because it will interfere with the election, and they’re doing this intentionally, in my mind,” McCreery said.
“For those seniors confined to home, the mail is very important to us,” Saar said. “It’s kind of fun to get those little surprise packages in the mail.”