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Postmaster General Says Service Changes Will Be ‘Suspended’ Until After the Election



POSTMASTER GENERAL Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that the Postal Service will suspend recent operational changes until after the November election amid mounting scrutiny and concern that the measures, which have resulted in mail delays, would affect the agency’s ability to process mail-in ballots.

DeJoy, a major Republican donor, was appointed to the agency’s top role in June and has since implemented a number of cost-cutting measures that have led to service delays.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday.

The announcement comes amid widespread criticism and pressure from lawmakers and state officials.

Congressional Democrats and some Republicans have expressed grave concerns with the changes implemented by DeJoy and have called for greater oversight at the agency. DeJoy is expected to testify before two congressional panels in the next week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said earlier this week that she will call the House back into session Saturday to vote on legislation that would halt the operational changes made at the Postal Service and funnel $25 billion in funding to the agency.

In response to DeJoy’s announcement, Pelosi said Democrats’ efforts to halt the changes proved successful.

“They felt the heat, and that’s what we were trying to do, is to make it too hot for them to handle,” Pelosi said during a live-streamed interview with Politico.

At least 20 states are expected to file lawsuits against DeJoy and the Postal Service over the changes, arguing that they will impede states’ ability to run free and fair elections, according to The Washington Post.

The changes implemented by DeJoy include a hiring freeze, the elimination of most overtime for workers, a removal of some of the service’s mail-sorting machines and mail-collection boxes, and a total reshuffling of the agency’s top leadership. DeJoy has also instructed workers to hold mail for the next day if it was not delivered on time.

It was not immediately clear exactly which operational changes would be suspended and what the mechanics of such a suspension would look like.

DeJoy in his statement said overtime will continue to be approved “as needed” and that mail processing facilities will not be closed. He also said that processing equipment and mail-collection boxes will not be removed.

DeJoy also said that the Postal Service will “engage standby resources” starting Oct. 1 in anticipation of an influx of election mail.

The Postal Service recently warned states that their deadlines for requesting and sending in mail-in ballots may not be met this year, which could result in some votes not being counted. In letters sent in July to all 50 states, the Postal Service’s general counsel, Thomas Marshall, urged states to require that voters request absentee ballots at least 15 days before the election, rather than the shorter period some states allow.

There are also concerns about how the Postal Service will treat election mail. First-class mail delivery usually takes two to five days, but third-class, or bulk, mail delivery can take three to 10 days. Typically, the agency has treated all election mail as first-class mail even if it has third-class postage. But the agency has reportedly advised states to use first-class postage – which is more expensive – on election mail this year instead of third-class postage to ensure that voters do not miss crucial deadlines.

The agency is in dire financial straits.

A stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House earlier this summer approved $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service. That measure was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, and negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders over another stimulus package have stalled.

In July, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, introduced a bipartisan bill that would give the Postal Service $25 billion in funding, but the measure has not advanced.

President Donald Trump has thus far refused to back the proposed funding but has signaled a willingness to negotiate.

During an interview with Fox Business, Trump connected his refusal to back the funding with his long-standing opposition to mail-in voting.

“Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. … But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump said.

Trump has railed against mail-in voting for months, attempting to draw a distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting, which he has encouraged. Though the phrases are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference: Absentee voting requires voters to request a ballot, and in some cases provide an excuse, while a small number states automatically send voters ballots in the mail, a process sometimes dubbed “universal mail-in voting.”

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