By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Truck hauling away mailboxes in Oregon and U. S. Mail truck delivering mail
President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to dismantle the United States Postal Service or revamp the agency in a way that has angered Democrats and others who said it’s a tactic to prevent mail-in voting for the upcoming election.
The CARES Act passed in April authorized the postal service to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury Department for operating expenses if it’s determines that, due to the COVID-19 emergency, the post office would not fund operating expenses without borrowing money.
“They have withheld that money. They have broken the law,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass told BlackPressUSA during a livestream interview last month. Other Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), also told BlackPressUSA that the president is trying to dismantle the postal service.
Trump has steadfastly opposed funding the postal service. Despite recently voting with his wife by mail in a Florida primary election, the president said he’s against mail-in voting.
“Trump is not stupid. He knows if there is a decent-sized turnout in this election, he loses,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote on Twitter. “He and his friends believe they can suppress the vote by destroying the post office. We aren’t going to allow that to happen.”
Several postal workers have reported the removal of sorting machines at postal facilities and the removal of sidewalk mailboxes. Postal officials reported that in the last week, the agency had removed letter collection boxes in at least four states: New York, Oregon, Montana, and Indiana.
Postal workers in at least three states – West Virginia, Florida, and Missouri – have received notification that retail operating hours also face reduction.
Removing mailboxes had become a practice along marathon and parade routes since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, however, the latest removals are believed intentional and strategically coordinated to impact the election.
In response to the removal of mailboxes and a slowdown in the delivery of mail, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) sent a letter to the Postmaster General on Aug. 7. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D), Louisiana Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin (R), Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) joined in signing the letter.
“State and local election officials are busy planning for the November general election, and many expect an increase in the use of absentee and mail ballots, along with other election-related mailings,” the state officials wrote.
“We view the [United States Postal Service] as a vital partner in administering a safe, successful election and would like to learn more about any planned changes around USPS service due to COVID-19, preparations for increased election-related mail, USPS staffing levels and processing times, and other pertinent issues.”
The postal service has sent letters to warn 46 states that it could not guarantee all mail-in ballots cast for the November election would arrive in time to be counted. Some states, like Maryland and Virginia, received a “heightened warning” that the postal service could not meet state-mandated deadlines.
In response, a large group of protesters staged a “noise demonstration” on Saturday, Aug. 15, outside of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s home in Washington, D.C. The demonstration was organized by the direct-action group “Shut Down D.C.”
The organization said they believe DeJoy is “dismantling” the U.S. Postal Service in favor of President Donald Trump’s re-election. They said his actions contribute to voter suppression.
“DeJoy has fired or reassigned much of the existing USPS leadership and ordered the removal of mail sorting machines that are fundamental to the functioning of the postal service. Meanwhile, mail delivery is slowing down under other decisions made by DeJoy, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers,” the organization wrote in a statement.
This week, the U.S. Inspector General opened an investigation into DeJoy’s policy changes at the post office.
According to some lawmakers, those changes are reportedly taking a toll on military veterans who are experiencing much longer wait times to receive mail-order prescription drugs.
Slowdowns at the post office have reportedly also resulted in seniors receiving their medications late and other important mail like social security checks.
It has also angered those who work for the agency. Postal workers throughout the country have reported low morale, and many have cited the actions of Dejoy, who was appointed by Trump. On Friday, Aug. 14, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), a union that boasts nearly 300,000 active and retired postal workers, endorsed Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden.
The U.S. Postmaster General announced Tuesday that he is suspending some recent operational changes until after the presidential election. “To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” U.S. Postal Service head Louis DeJoy said of the changes, which included removing mail processing equipment and collection boxes.
Additionally, he promised, USPS retail hours will not change, processing facilities will not be closed and overtime for postal workers will be approved as needed.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said. “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 promise expands on one DeJoy made earlier this week to stop removing mailboxes for the next 90 days.