US Postal Service Delays Causing Anxiety For Voters As General Election Nears
The US Postal Service is currently experiencing days-long mail backlogs which some workers fear could impede their ability to deliver election ballots on time in November, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The delays are due to new procedures put in place by Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General for the agency, in order to cut costs. The new changes were approved by DeJoy and took effect on July 13, and agency officials plan to keep the procedures in place for about 30 to 60 days as a trial run. The new provisions include prohibiting over-time pay, shutting down sorting machines early, and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind when necessary in order to avoid extra trips or late delivery.
Allowing postal workers to leave letters behind to avoid multiple delivery trips is expected to save the organization about $200 million in additional expenses, according to officials.
Letter carriers have also been sorting mail manually since the machines that typically do the sorting are being shut down earlier to cut costs, which also adds to delivery time. If there are any hand-sorting errors, the mail would need to be rerouted, which also adds on additional time.
Without the ability to work overtime, workers say the situation is only worsening.
The new procedures have resulted in a delay of at least two days, even for express mail, throughout the country.
Several key battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have seen problems, making some citizens concerned about being targeted due to their importance to the election.
Michigan is currently getting ready for its August 4 primary, some voters still saying that they have not received their ballots as of this week. Election clerks are now telling voters to drop off their ballot rather than send it back in the mail.
Tens of thousands of ballots across the country have already been disqualified during the primaries this year due to late arrivals.
These delays come during an election cycle which is expected to yield a record number of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic.
“I’m actually terrified to see election season under the new procedure,” said Lori Cash, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in Western New York.
Employees at the USPS say that ballots are typically hand-sorted and given priority so that they can be delivered on time. Still, election officials are warning voters to send in general election ballots as early as possible to avoid delays.
Mark Dimondstein, the head of the APWU, which is the largest postal workers unions in the US, had a meeting with DeJoy in which he expressed his “deep concerns” about the impact of the new procedures on the election.
“I vehemently weighed in that this is wrong,” said Dimondstein. “It’s wrong for the people of the country, it’s wrong for the public Postal Service. It drives away business and revenue. And it’s wrong for the workers.”
Dimondstein reported that DeJoy said he is committed to mail voting and providing full assistance to states during the election cycle.
David Partenheimer, a spokesman for the US Postal Service, says that the new policies are not meant to slow delivery of any mail, including ballots, and that the current issues will be resolved soon.
Partenheimer also spoke on the accusation that DeJoy takes directions from President Trump, saying they are “wholly misplaced and off-base”.
President of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, Ronnie Stutts, asked DeJoy about his relationship with the president.
“I asked him, ‘Do you know that your president who you support…is not real high on voting by mail? He don’t like that.’ And he said, ‘Let me tell you something…My relationship with the president is not going to have anything to do with me doing my job,’” said Stutts.
Stutts is confident that DeJoy’s new policies will allow for more efficiency and financial stability. He says that the concerns directed at the agency are exaggerated and premature.
“What he is putting in place, I want to give the man an opportunity to do what he’s wanting to do,” Stutts said. “You’re really not delaying anything. What you’re doing is, you’re running an efficient operation.”
Four Senate Democrats, consisting of Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Sen. Gary Peters, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Sen. Thomas R. Carper, wrote to DeJoy expressing their own concerns about the new implementations.
“Your failure to provide Congress with relevant information about these recent changes or to clarify to postal employees what changes you have directed as Postmaster General, undermines public trust and only increases concerns that service compromises will grow in advance of the election and peak mail volumes in November,” they wrote.
Earlier this week, the USPS agreed to disclosing information regarding their private-sector contracts to the Treasury Department in exchange for a $10 billion emergency loan authorized by Congress.
Read the full report here.