Newsletter: The ballot box battle at the mailbox

Letter carriers load mail trucks for deliveries at a U.S. Postal Service facility in McLean, Va.
Letter carriers load mail trucks for deliveries at a U.S. Postal Service facility in McLean, Va. The success of the 2020 presidential election could come down to a most unlikely government agency: the Postal Service.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

President Trump is opposed to mail-in voting and said he’d block money for the U.S. Postal Service to handle an expected surge in ballots.


The Ballot Box Battle at the Mailbox

President Trump said he would block a funding boost for the U.S. Postal Service to handle an expected flood of mail-in ballots in the coming weeks, admitting it’s part of a White House effort to limit Americans voting by mail and raising the chances of chaos surrounding the election in November.


During an interview on Fox Business Channel, Trump said he would reject $3.5 billion in supplemental funding to help local election officials staff up for the election, and a broader $25-billion boost for the USPS, that Democrats sought in the now-stalled negotiations to help Americans in the current recession.

“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”

“But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump added.

Speaking to reporters later Thursday in the White House briefing room, Trump decried mail “ballots that come out of the sky from nowhere” but appeared to ease his opposition on funding, saying he was open to approving federal aid for the Postal Service as long as it wasn’t tied to $1 trillion for local governments that Democrats have sought in negotiations.

Democrats have pushed to provide up to $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped service, which was under immense strain long before the coronavirus crisis spurred numerous states to expand access to mail-in balloting to reduce the risk of infection at crowded polling stations. The USPS is now led by Louis DeJoy, a mega-donor to the president before Trump named him postmaster general in May.

Trump claims voting by mail will hurt his reelection chances, arguing that Democrats are more likely to stay home while his supporters vote in person. Two polls this week show he may be right, including a Pew survey showing 58% of Democratic-leaning voters prefer to vote by mail, compared with just 20% of those likely to support the president.

Birtherism 2.0

Trump has amplified a false claim that Kamala Harris, who was born in Oakland, might be ineligible to serve as vice president. It’s a smear that recalls the baseless, racist “birther” campaign he waged against former President Obama, and it marked a new turn in Trump’s scattershot response to Democratic rival Joe Biden‘s selection of Harris as his running mate.

Trump and his allies have careened through a jumble of contradictory attacks on the California senator’s ideology, demeanor and background, using well-worn sexist and racist tropes. Harris is the first Black woman and first Asian American on a major-party ticket.


In trying to cast doubt on Harris’ American citizenship, Trump is returning to what refueled his rise in Republican politics — his false insistence that Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii.

Who’s Leading the Charge?

The sudden departure this week of California’s public health officer, Dr. Sonia Angell, is intensifying instability in the state’s vital health departments as they struggle with crushing workloads and navigating the worst health crisis in a century, according to interviews with current and former healthcare and government officials.

Angell stepped down from the California Department of Public Health on Sunday after only 10 months in the job. Her second-in-command, who led the state’s testing task force, left in July. The resignations add to a list of more than half a dozen top health officials who have departed over the last year, raising concerns that the upheaval is threatening the state’s response at a critical time.

The numerous changes have increased pressure on California’s underfunded state health departments as they try to keep pace with the governor’s flurry of announcements on new guidelines, programs and policy changes. Public health leaders at the state and county levels have also become a target of hostility over business and mask restrictions.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines


— How a rush to reopen drove Los Angeles County into a health crisis.

— Six weeks after California began re-closing swaths of the economy, there is cautious optimism that coronavirus transmission is heading downward.

— As California searches for ways to avoid an “eviction cliff” caused by the economic devastation of the coronavirus, immigrant farmworkers are bearing the brunt of the crisis with the least access to help, advocates say.

— “I can’t teach when I’m dead.” As colleges press to reopen, professors fear the COVID-19 risk that comes with a bustling campus.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

A Tale of Two Online Educations


Meet Maria Viego, 10, and Cooper Glynn, 9. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were both thriving at their elementary schools. But when their campuses shut down, their distance learning experiences diverged dramatically. Maria didn’t have a computer at home until June, and 90% of her classmates in the Coachella Valley Unified School District are from low-income families. Cooper, who attends school in the Las Virgenes Unified School District, was given a school-issued computer and an online curriculum in days. As school prepares to start again, Maria and her family are anxious she’s fallen behind.

A Los Angeles Times survey of 45 Southern California school districts found profound differences in distance learning among children attending school districts in high-poverty communities, like Maria’s in Coachella Valley, and those in more affluent ones, like Cooper’s in Las Virgenes, which serves Calabasas and nearby areas.

Researchers and experts say these inequities threaten to exacerbate wide and persistent disparities in public education that shortchange students of color and those from low-income families, resulting in potentially lasting harm to a generation of children.

A Deal in the Middle East

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to work toward establishing full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt, for now, Israel’s plans to annex occupied West Bank land sought by Palestinians for their future state.

If the UAE establishes formal ties with Israel, it would be only the third Arab country — after Jordan and Egypt — to recognize Israel, and the first Gulf nation to do so.


In announcing the agreement at the White House, Trump hailed it as a historic breakthrough that signaled a “new era” of peace in the Middle East. But throughout the region and in Washington, the agreement, while considered important, was seen as a long way from changing reality in one of the world’s most conflicted areas.


The spark was the arrest of Marquette Frye, a Black driver, on Aug. 11, 1965. When Frye’s mother intervened, a crowd gathered and the arrest became a flash point for anger against police, igniting nearly a week of protests and rioting in Watts. Thirty-four people died, more than 600 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and the National Guard was called in.

But the state’s McCone Commission later concluded that the unrest’s root causes were poverty, inequality, racial discrimination and the overturning of a key law that had protected the rights of Black home buyers. Read more about how The Times covered the story, and what it fumbled.

Smoke rises from buildings on 103rd Street in Watts.
Aug. 13, 1965: Smoke rises from buildings on 103rd Street in Watts.
(Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times)

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— Sixteen picks for weekend culture to watch at home, including a Benjamin Millepied film and the return of #Ham4Change.


— Make pickles. Cucumbers, radishes, sunchokes — even plums — can be made better with a brine.

— A desert trip in the summer heat? Here’s why that might be a good idea.

— Visit the perfect pandemic hideaway in the San Gabriel Mountains. Make sure to pack your hiking boots.


Fires near Azusa, Corona and Lake Hughes are burning. This map tracks wildfires across the state.

— L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has moved to discipline 26 employees for misconduct related to a fight during an off-duty East L.A. station party at which several deputies said they were attacked by tattooed members of the Banditos clique.

Dodger Stadium will host a voting site for November’s election, partnering with LeBron James’ More Than a Vote coalition to become what team officials say is the first MLB team to make its stadium available as a polling place.


— The site of America’s first nuclear meltdown — and subsequent cover-up — in the hills of Ventura County may soon join Hearst Castle, the cable cars of San Francisco and the Santa Barbara Mission as an official landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

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— A Justice Department investigation has found Yale University is illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law. Yale denied the allegation, calling it “meritless” and “hasty.”

Convention speeches are a dramatic art. While virtual distance adds a new twist, Biden and Trump can still get it right, writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty.

— The Beirut blast leveled historic neighborhoods. Now some fear developers may finish the job instead of helping rebuild and restore.


— Hollywood’s entertainment industry unions have a whiteness problem. Workers say they’re left to fend for themselves.


— The ice cream truck song has a racist past. So Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA wrote a new one, teaming up with Good Humor.

— From Sally Rooney to Ottessa Moshfegh, the authors of some the trendiest new books are revisiting the trope of the passive female character. Is it a step forward or one back?

— H.P. Lovecraft was a virulent racist. Here’s how HBO’s new series “Lovecraft Country” confronts his legacy.

— The fight for the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, is a story for the ages. Times television critic Lorraine Ali asks, why isn’t it bigger on TV?


— The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic began, but hundreds of thousands are still seeking help.

— Last July, Steve Saleen, the Southern California designer of souped-up Ford Mustangs and eponymous supercars, launched a new line of vehicles for the Chinese market. A year later, it’s collapsed under fraud accusations and police raids. What happened?



— The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts has tied an MLB record for the most three-home run games.

— The Lakers are focused on the playoffs after losing to the Sacramento Kings in their season finale.

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— The Times’ editorial board offers six ways to ensure Americans can vote safely amid the pandemic.

— How white people used police to make L.A. one of the most segregated cities in America.


Herman Cain died two weeks ago of COVID-19, but his social media accounts are bashing Kamala Harris. (USA Today)

— On TikTok, borrowed audio clips and dance moves are considered fair game, no matter the source. But what happens when white creators go viral with Black ideas? (Wired)


Are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moving up the coast? The couple were said to have moved to L.A. in March. They were later spotted delivering meals in West Hollywood in April and staying at Tyler Perry’s estate in Beverly Hills. But their tenure didn’t last long: Sources tell The Times the couple have purchased a home in Montecito.


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