Freelance writer Mark Delaney tells me he took this photo Aug. 8 of a postal worker in Portland, Ore., removing mailboxes. Via Twitter

In 24 hours, signs of a pre-election postal slowdown have moved from the shadows to the spotlight, with evidence emerging all over the country that this isn't a just a potential threat, but is happening before our eyes.

Why it matters: If you're the Trump administration, and you're in charge of the federal government, remember that a Pew poll published in April found the Postal Service was viewed favorably by 91% of Americans.

Between the lines: There's pretty high brand equity for the organization that got soldiers' letters back from the front lines, delivered care packages to your summer camp, and shoved your college acceptance through the front door.

What's happening: Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor, was sworn in as postmaster general in June. Since then:

  • Social media exploded with reports from Oregon, Montana, Manhattan and Pennsylvania that the Postal Service was unbolting and hauling away mailboxes. "Some of the boxes scheduled to be removed from downtown Billings are nearly overflowing daily,” Julie Quilliam, president of the Montana Letter Carriers Association, wrote on Facebook, per AP.
    • The Postal Service backed off Friday, telling NBC News: "We are not going to be removing any boxes ... After the election, we’re going to take a look at operations."
  • The WashPost scooped that the Postal Service sent letters July 29 to 46 states and D.C. "warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted." The Post said that could mean that even if people "follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes."
  • And high-speed sorting machines are being yanked from processing plants.

Of note: Joe Biden is seizing on the postal fiasco, saying on Friday at a virtual fundraiser, per a pool report:

  • "I was joking earlier with a couple on the call. I wonder if you're outside trying to hold down your mailboxes. They’re going around literally with tractor trailers picking up mailboxes. You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!"
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Go deeper

Pennsylvania Supreme Court extends mail-in ballot deadline

An election worker opens envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots in the Washington state primary. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Thursday extended the deadlines for mail ballots to several days after the election, a decision that could see thousands more ballots counted, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: Current law says that mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. The court decision moves that deadline to 5 p.m. the following Friday, Nov. 6.

Court battles shift mail-in voting deadlines in battleground states

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Michigan joins Pennsylvania in extending mail-in ballot deadlines by several days after the election, due to the coronavirus pandemic and expected delays in U.S. Postal Service.

The latest: Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that all ballots postmarked before Nov. 2 must be counted, so long as they arrive in the mail before election results are certified. Michigan will certify its general election results on Nov. 23.

America on edge as unrest rises

Louisville on Wednesday. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Rarely have national security officials, governors, tech CEOs and activists agreed as broadly and fervently as they do about the possibility of historic civil unrest in America.

Why it matters: The ingredients are clear for all to see — epic fights over racism, abortion, elections, the virus and policing, stirred by misinformation and calls to action on social media, at a time of stress over the pandemic.