WASHINGTON – U.S. Postal Service (USPS) initiatives that could impact the timely delivery of absent voter ballots for the November election are being paused until the election is over.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday that in an effort to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail,” the USPS will continue its services as normal through the end of the election cycle.
DeJoy said that retail hours at post offices will not change and no mail processing facilities will be closed.
The postmaster general also said that mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are -- following reports and concerns that curbside mailboxes, which is how many will cast their ballots come November, have been abruptly removed in some states.
Overtime will also continue to be approved as necessary for employees, said DeJoy amid reports that overtime was no longer being allowed, allegedly slowing down mail-sorting and distribution processes.
A national spotlight has been shone on the USPS over the last week, as the agency recently warned 46 states that mail-in ballots may not be returned on time for the November election -- even if they are mailed on time -- amid delayed and reduced services caused by a lack of federal funding.
Mail-in voting, or voting absentee, has become a popular voting method throughout the U.S. amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Record numbers of absent voter ballots have been requested and issued in Michigan and across the country for this year’s elections.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said Tuesday. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.”
DeJoy also announced Tuesday the expansion of a task force that will oversee election mail and “ensure election officials and voters are well informed and fully supported by the Postal Service.”
If absent voter ballots are delivered late, millions of American voices could be silenced in the upcoming presidential election.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he is blocking funds to the USPS in an effort to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo of the USPS in an interview for Fox Business Network. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”
Though Trump casts his own ballots by mail, he’s repeatedly criticized efforts to allow more people to do so, which he argues without evidence will lead to increased voter fraud that could cost him the election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back into session over the crisis at the USPS, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump administration is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the November election. On Sunday, Democratic lawmakers demanded that leaders of the Postal Service testify at an emergency oversight hearing Aug. 24 on mail delays.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been critical of the federal push back to what some have called deliberate delays to suppress voting. The new postmaster general previously called those delays unintended consequences to budget cuts.