WASHINGTON - U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy vowed Tuesday that mailed-in ballots in the November 3 presidential election will be delivered “on time” and suspended until after the election all changes at the agency that Democrats claimed would possibly have kept millions of votes from being sent to election officials to be counted.
DeJoy, a wealthy campaign donor to Republican President Donald Trump whom Trump appointed to head the U.S. Postal Service, said in a statement that the agency “is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.”
DeJoy declared, “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.”
He said cost-cutting measures he has undertaken at the deficit-ridden agency will be put on hold until after Election Day “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” Mail-in voting in the U.S. starts in some states in September.
DeJoy had curtailed overtime pay for workers, which postal critics said had resulted in recent delivery delays.
But he said that “overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.”
DeJoy also said mail-processing equipment at postal centers and blue mail collection boxes on streets throughout the U.S. “will remain where they are” and that no mail processing facilities will be closed. In recent days in some cities, the postal agency was seen removing some of the boxes from street corners, leading to allegations the Trump appointee was trying to help him win by curbing mail-in voting.
U.S. election officials are expecting millions more mailed-in ballots than in previous elections in the presidential contest between Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. It is the expected result of voters trying to avoid contracting the coronavirus by casting ballots by mail to avoid going to polling places where they would come face to face with many other people waiting in line to vote.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump themselves have requested absentee ballots in their adopted home state of Florida. But for months, the president has railed against state election officials throughout the country who have sought in some cases to implement wider vote-by-mail plans by sending ballots directly to voters, as opposed to waiting until voters request ballots.
Trump has claimed, without evidence, that massive mailed ballot schemes will lead to widespread fraud and a rigged election against him. He also has said the mail-in balloting helps Democrats to the detriment of Republicans, although studies have shown little partisan advantage with voting by mail.
DeJoy, who took control of the postal agency in June, is set to testify twice before congressional panels in the coming days to answer bipartisan criticism that he has made changes that have slowed mail deliveries. The Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is questioning him Friday and the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee will do so Monday.
The Senate panel said its hearing will scrutinize the “finances and operations of the United States Postal Service during COVID-19 and upcoming elections.” COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.
House Democrats say they plan to vote in an unusual Saturday session on an extra $25 billion in funding for the postal agency and to limit changes they contend would inhibit the processing of mailed-in ballots. It was not immediately clear how DeJoy’s pledge to halt postal system changes until after the election would affect the Democratic-proposed legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last weekend called the House back into session from its summer recess to vote on the Postal Service funding and to reverse DeJoy-instituted changes they claim would possibly keep mailed-in ballots from arriving at election offices throughout the country in time to be counted in the election.
Senate Republicans this week are expected to introduce coronavirus relief legislation that will include billions for the Postal Service. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has not said, however, if he will bring senators back from recess to vote on the measure.
Trump said Monday he wants to “speed up” mail deliveries but underscored last week he opposes additional funding for the agency.
Trump defended DeJoy, who has donated $1.2 million to his campaign since 2016 and almost $1.3 million to the Republican Party, for taking significant steps to cut costs at the agency and improve its performance.
Pelosi accused Trump of conducting a “campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters.”