Kipp Mueller | We Must Protect the Right to Vote

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Our communities continue to be utterly devastated by COVID-19, both physically and economically. In the United States, more than 174,000 people have died. So many more have lost their jobs. Small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, and working families are accumulating debt in order to pay the bills. What’s worse, it’s hard to know when this will change. 

During this COVID-19 crisis, we need our mail systems to be more reliable than ever. Our workers, many of whom have either had their hours diminished or have lost their jobs and are now at risk of losing their homes while not being able to afford health care bills, depend completely on the post office to get their unemployment and stimulus checks. Our small businesses are even more dependent on mail to conduct business, since offices and stores remain closed. 

Our seniors are especially vulnerable to the virus, and so rather than visiting pharmacies and grocery stores, many order their prescriptions and food to be delivered via mail. About 90% of our veterans receive their prescriptions via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The Veterans Administration confirmed that almost 25% of those prescription deliveries over the past year have been significantly delayed. Many of these prescriptions for our veterans are to treat their chronic health conditions that are a result of serving our country, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

This risk to our seniors and veterans is unique in that it is not a natural result of the pandemic. Rather, it is the result of cynical, dirty politics. The Trump administration is deliberately sabotaging the USPS in an effort to limit our ability to vote because he knows that if fewer people vote, he has a better chance of winning. It is despotic and utterly shameful that our president is intentionally infringing upon the most foundational constitutional right that protects all other freedoms enshrined in our constitution: the right to vote. 

And in the process, he is hurting so many Americans who rely on the USPS for life-saving medication or financial support. We have seen attacks on our voting rights for decades, but never has it been by dismantling an American institution that so many of us depend upon for our survival. 

The Trump administration’s assault on our post offices, and thereby our ability to fully exercise our right to vote, has hit home for us here in Santa Clarita. CBS LA recently reported that Santa Clarita post offices have shut down eight massive mail sorting machines, which could delay our mail for the indefinite future. Finding a quick solution to these efforts by the Trump administration can literally be the difference between life and death for our seniors and our veterans here at home. At a House Oversight hearing recently, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he does not intend to put back the mail sorters he took out of service, even knowing the consequences that have come from these changes. 

Unfortunately, we only get deafening silence from our Republican elected officials on this matter, including from my opponent, Sen. Scott Wilk. 

Sen. Wilk often effusively praises our constitution, and rightly so. But where is he when Donald Trump infringes upon the most fundamental, foundational, and necessary right for any democracy: the right to vote? Not a word. The House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support that would fully fund USPS, but our Rep. Mike Garcia voted against it, also siding with Trump rather than our community. 

This unconscionable behavior in our politics is why I’m running for state Senate. We do not need more politicians who kowtow to their party leaders rather than fight for their community. We need local elected leaders who will stand up to this sort of behavior, regardless of party, and protect our seniors, our veterans and our communities first.

Our constitutional democracy deserves better. Our veterans and our families deserve better. As a workers’ rights attorney, I represent regular people every day, which is exactly what I will do in office — above politics, above party, above all else. I will be an independent voice that stands ready to criticize anyone, from any party, whose reckless behavior could cause harm to our veterans, our seniors, our small business owners and workers.

Kipp Mueller is a candidate for the 21st Senate District.

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