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Senators worried post office changes could block November ballots

Mail workers prepare mail for delivery at Kilbourn Park Post Office on May 9, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Postal workers prepare mail for delivery at Kilbourn Park Post Office on May 9, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
photo: Scott Olsen (Getty Images)

Democratic senators warned Friday that controversial changes to U.S. Postal Service procedures have raised concerns in Washington about the timely delivery of postal ballots ahead of the November election.

Earlier this month, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy approved a controversial cost-saving operation at the USPS, which Congress envisioned last century as a hybrid government company. Instead of federal funding, the postal service, which traces its roots back to the federalist era, would sustain itself through its own sources of revenue, none of which today are able to cover costs. DeJoy, who took office last month after 30 years as CEO of a North Carolina-based logistics company, says immediate changes and others to come are intended to address annual operating deficits that have left the agency with more than $ 100 billion in debt.

one internal document obtained by the Washington Post shows that DeJoy has placed more emphasis on schedule and punctuality and told airlines to “leave the street on time and return on time.” A direct consequence of this, the July 10 memo tells employees, is that airlines can “temporarily” see “email left or emailed on the workspace floor or docks,” which it adds is “not typical.”

DeJoy, whose past as a major GOP donor and fundraiser for President Trump has rubbed many the wrong way, has portrayed the USPS as a “broken business model,” saying in a statement this week that an inability to balance costs with available funding has led to the agency facing “an impending liquidity crisis.” The agency, which conservatives have long sought to privatize, is widely expected to go bankrupt this year. Nevertheless, Federal legislators are questions the mind by implementing drastic changes in the midst of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and only months before a national election.

“Recent concerns raised by voters and postal workers have called into question changes under your leadership that are now taking place in post offices and processing centers across the country that could have a negative impact on mail delivery,” read a letter to Postmaster General DeJoy from four U.S. senators on Friday. (The letter was sent again by Senators Gary Peters, Chuck Schumer, Tom Carper, and Amy Klobuchar – from Michigan, New York, Delaware, and Minnesota, respectively.)

The letter coincides with a Washington Post report describes nationwide “days-long mail demands,” as it said are “alarming” postal workers and union officials, which the paper describes as fearing DeJoy’s new protocols could “undermine their ability to deliver polls in time for the November election.”

At least 65,000 absent or mail-in ballots have already been rejected this year because they arrived by the deadline, NPR-analysis found, “often without the fault of the voter.” Although the pandemic has exacerbated the USPS’s economic problems, in June the White House threatened to veto a coronavirus aid package if it included money for the agency, which employs more than 630,000 workers.

The American Postal Workers Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Democratic aide told Gizmodo that lawmakers, including those with oversight powers, did not have a complete understanding of what has happened at the USPS since DeJoy’s arrival. The changes have only been described to them in ambiguous terms, such as “operational effort,” and it was unclear what schedule DeJoy was working under, they said.

The letter, sent Friday, contains seven questions that speak to how little U.S. senators know, such as: “Did you discuss these operational changes or other operational changes with government officials outside the post office?” The letter claims that DeJoy did not consult “meaningfully” with any representatives of the postal union or other “post-industrial stakeholders.”

“It is important that the postal service does not slow down the mail or in any way compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural, seniors and millions of Americans who depend on the postal service – including a significant number who will rely on the postal service to exercise their right. to vote, ”the letter says.

USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said in an email that the agency “strongly focused on the efficiency” of its operations as part of a broader strategy to make the agency financially stable. “Of course, we recognize that the consequences of temporary service may occur when we redouble our efforts to comply with current operating plans, but any such impact will be monitored and temporary, as the root causes of any problems will be addressed if necessary and addressed. needs, “he said.

Partenheimer said the agency will “continuously review” its practices and adapt them when necessary, “to ensure that we operate in an efficient and effective manner.” He also sought to emphasize that DeJoy was appointed by the Postal Council, and not the president, like others, he said, was falsely reported.

A spokesman for Senator Klobuchar, who awarded the USPS letter, said the sudden changes at the agency had given the Minnesota senator cause for concern that the integrity of the election could be jeopardized.

President Trump, meanwhile, floated the idea Thursday that the November election could be delayed because, he stated on Twitter, the expansion of post-in ballot papers due to public concerns over 19-year-olds would cause the “biggest election disaster in history. ” IN New York Times, co-founder of the powerful conservative legal group Federalist Society, a Trump ally, called the tweet “fascist,” adding that it was “in itself due to the president’s immediate impeachment.”

Senator Ron Wyden told Gizmodo on Friday that he became more and more concerned about efforts to undermine confidence in post-in ballots and the election in general.

“The fact that [Trump] by pushing on constitutional fantasies like changing election day makes it clear how desperate he is to cling to power, ”Wyden said. “Every elected official must make it clear that Trump’s transparent attempts to overthrow our democratic systems are totally unacceptable. And Americans in voting states can protect themselves from sabotage by voting as early as possible or by returning ballots by drop boxes. “

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