Utahns rally in Salt Lake City to ‘save the post office'

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Heather Dorrell gathers with other protesters during a rally to "Save the Post Office," hosted by Alliance for a Better Utah, NAACP Salt Lake Branch, League of Women Voters at the Post Office on 200 South in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.

About 70 people rallied outside of downtown Salt Lake City’s post office Saturday, waving signs in support of the federal system they say is under attack by President Donald Trump.

It was part of a nationwide day of action in response to recent delays in the U.S. Postal Service and Trump’s unfounded criticism of voting by mail as unreliable and easy to manipulate.

Katie Matheson, with Alliance for a Better Utah, told the crowd that while Utah has a lot of areas that need improvement, there’s one thing it’s good at: Voting by mail.

“I’m so very proud of that,” she said, as the group cheered. “We are lucky to be here.”

The group held signs that read, “U.S. Mail not for sale,” and “USPS: Public Service Not a Business.” One man scribbled on poster board, “Can’t believe we have to protest the mail.”

The rally was organized by a number of organizations, including the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Utah, Alliance for a Better Utah and the Utah branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

The organizers urged people to mail their ballots early, no later than Oct. 20. Participants also scribbled notes on postcards to send to Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, urging them to pass legislation that would halt mail service cutbacks until the coronavirus pandemic has ended.

“They are coming after your right to vote,” activist Darlene McDonald told the group. “And there are people who bled and sweat for that right to vote. Do not give it away.”

Jeff Worthington, the president of the labor union Utah AFL-CIO, noted Saturday that efforts to dismantle the postal service affects more than just the ability to safely vote during a pandemic. There are people who depend on the postal service to deliver their medications.

The postal system, he said, should not be used as a political pawn.

“Our voices need to be heard,” he said. “We have been practicing vote by mail for years now. The argument coming out of Washington, D.C. that it would be a rigged election if we do that, it’s bunk. That is so false. We’ve proven that it works. And we need to keep our post office and their employees and our brothers and sisters employed.”

Utah is one of five states that have used a vote-by-mail system for years, and the only one that does not lean Democratic.

The U.S. Postal Service recently gave 40 states “heightened warnings” that by-mail ballots could arrive late this year, and might overwhelm its system. Among the exceptions were Utah and the other four states that have offered universal by-mail voting for years: Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

County clerks and the state earlier this month reported they are confident that by-mail voting will work well here because they do such things as let the Postal Service know when ballots are coming; use envelopes that are easy to identify that allow postal workers to give them priority; and county election employees pick up ballots at post offices to reduce return time.

Still, in response to questions from The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month, the Postal Service in a written statement advised Utahns to send back ballots early and not wait until the last minute.