Images of the recognizable blue Postal Service drop boxes being hauled away in trailers flooded social media in mid-August, just three months before the presidential election. The social media posts originating from Oregon went viral and fueled fears that President Trump would hinder mail-in voting, a method he openly distrusts.
But U.S. Postal records show that removing the boxes is nothing new. They have been taken away for years as first-class mail became rarer. In fact, the Postal Service has removed over 17,000 mailboxes in the past five years, according to records acquired by KGW8 through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A person in Northeast Portland posted a photo on social media of a large mailbox being carted away on Aug. 8, sparking widespread criticism. Other similar posts followed shortly after, causing people to wonder why the boxes would be removed so close to the election.
A spokesperson for USPS confirmed the removal of 27 boxes from Eugene and four from Portland in areas where the mail collection boxes were said to be placed too closely together.
“The reason we’re doing it is because of declining mail volume,” USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson told Willamette Week.
The viral posts caught the nation’s attention, ending up in news cycles and spreading concern that Trump would follow through with his statement to sabotage mail-in voting by halting funds to the Postal Service.
Due to the concern, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy – a Trump supporter – paused the removal of the blue mail collection boxes, among other cost-cutting efforts, until after the presidential election.
“This is a long-standing thing that has been going on in the postal service,” DeJoy said in a House Oversight Committee hearing on Aug. 24.
By Jessica Goddard