Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy denied on Friday he was using his position to ‘slow down’ election-related mail and said, despite being pointed to the position by Donald Trump, he does not make decisions at the direction of the president.
DeJoy’s tenure at the top of the U.S. Postal System has come under fire amid reports of mail delays and changes in the postal system that has sparked fears it will result in the disenfranchisement of voters this November.
‘Despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down Election Mail or any other mail,’ DeJoy said in his opening remarks to the Postal Service Board of Governors annual meeting.
Democrats hauled DeJoy to Capitol Hill for questioning this week and said after the meeting his answers were unsatisfactory. DeJoy, a major Republican donor, have faced charges of putting politics into the postal delivery system.
He defended his actions at the postal system to the board.
‘We will do everything we can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards. We do ask election officials and voters to be mindful of the time that it takes for us to deliver ballots, whether it is a blank ballot going to a voter or a completed ballot going back to election officials,’ he said.
DeJoy also said he didn’t make decisions at the direction of the president.
‘While I certainly have a good relationship with the President of the United States, the notion that I would ever make decisions concerning the Postal Service at the direction of the president, or anyone else in the administration, is wholly off-base,’ he said.
Some post office workers charged DeJoy’s new policies – which include prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes – have led to major delays in delivering the mail.
That could have serious consequences in November when millions of mail-in ballots are expected to make their way through the postal system after several states increased mail-in voting options as a way to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Several states have strict deadlines on when ballots came be received in order to count as a vote.
DeJoy and his allies have said the changes were put in place to help the financially-strapped postal system slowly make its way out of debt.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to DeJoy earlier this week asking him to reverse his changes.
‘We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail—including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters—that is essential to millions of Americans,’ they wrote.
The Democratic leaders argued the pandemic was not the time to cut services.
‘While it is true that the Postal Service has and continues to face financial challenges, enacting these policies as cost-cutting or efficiency measures as the COVID-19 public health emergency continues is counterproductive and unacceptable,’ they noted.
Meanwhile, DeJoy put the onus on state election boards and said they needed to factor the time it took to deliver and return mail as they sent out absentee ballots.
‘There will likely be an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic, the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so. However, as discussed, we cannot correct the errors of the Election Boards if they fail to deploy processes that take our normal processing and delivery standards into account,’ he said in his remarks on Friday.
An internal report from the postal service warned almost half the states are not providing adequate time for workers to deliver ballots ahead of the election.
Several states affected are battleground ones that could decide if Trump or Biden is the next president and it’s big cities – which are hot beds of Democratic voters – that will likely be most affected.
An internal report from the Postal Service warned there are 24 states with deadlines close enough to the election that do not provide or at high risk for not giving the post office time to deliver ballots before the election.
The states include the battleground states of New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Ohio.
‘Ballots requested less than seven days before an election are at a high risk of not being delivered, completed by voters, and returned to the election offices in time,’ the report stated.
President Trump is suing Nevada and California over those states’ decisions to expand mail-in voting this November.
The president has railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to voter fraud. Numerous studies have shown that is not the case. Trump, himself, votes absentee ballot, which he argues is different from sending ballots to all registered voters, which several states are doing this November.
And, during an interview with Fox & Friends on Wednesday, Trump also shrugged off concerns that in-person voting could lead to a spread in the coronavirus and said on Election Day it will be ‘very safe.’
‘We have people that really want to get out and vote. It’s going to be very safe. But by November 3rd, time wise, that’s eternity, frankly, as far as I’m concerned. For Trump, that’s eternity. And, November 3rd is a long ways off, a lot of things are going to happen,’ he said.
Nevada, California and Vermont have opted for universal mail-in voting because of the virus. Five states already conduct elections by mail-in ballots. And many other states have allowed fear of the coronavirus to be used as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.