According to Barton Gellman’s recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.”
This year’s presidential election involves voting by mail on a massive scale. Some states are expecting a tenfold increase in mail-in ballots. Trump has tweeted that “mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud and abuse. it will also lead to the end of our great republican party. we can never let this tragedy befall our nation.”
Louis DeJoy, the new head of the USPS appointed by Trump, has implemented service cuts, restructuring and major operational changes. However, the president is not trying to prevent mail-in balloting altogether, he is simply discrediting the practice and starving it of resources. According to United States District Judge Stanley Bastian, “At the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement. This is evident in President Trump’s highly partisan words and tweets.”
One way to help the postal service function more efficiently is to reduce the amount of mail they have to handle. You can do this by taking the following actions to reduce the volume of junk mail delivered by USPS to your mailbox:
Opt-out of prescreened offers. By calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visiting optoutprescreen.com, you can block unsolicited offers for new credit cards and insurance policies for five years—or permanently. This free opt-out service is operated by the four major consumer reporting companies.
Opt-out of Data and Marketing Association mail. A lot of junk mail comes from members of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA), which includes nonprofits and companies that market goods and services directly to consumers. The DMA will allow you to opt-out of entire categories of mail, such as catalogs. It costs $2 to block unwanted DMA mail for 10 years. Catalogchoice.org is a free alternative to DMAchoice that allows you to unsubscribe from catalogs one at a time.
Opt-out of mail from smaller marketers. Valpak delivers blue envelopes filled with coupons and ads from local companies. Fortunately, you can cancel this “service” easily. Be sure to unsubscribe from any RedPlum publication (now known as RetailMeNot Everyday), as well.
Do it yourself, piece by piece. Political mailings will increase as Election Day nears, and no laws, regulations or opt-out mechanisms can prevent that. Look near the bottom of the pamphlet or letter; though political organizations are not required to provide an opt-out number, some still do so.
There’s an app for that. Finally, the PaperKarma app prompts you to take a photo of the unwanted mailing with your smartphone and then attempts to do the unsubscribing work for you.
You can help the crucial upcoming election by reducing the volume of junk mail you get. Though bills, statements, notices and political mailings cannot be stopped, be sure to switch to paperless formats whenever possible.