A former top US Postal Service (USPS) official has warned that recent changes to the agency, now led by a Trump ally, could “disqualify” voters as they made just a few months before the election in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail.
Amid reports of a significant delay in the mail, Ronald Stroman, who resigned earlier this year as second in command at the USPS, said he was concerned about the speed and timing of the changes. apparently done after Louis DeJoy, the new general manager of the post office, took office in June. According to Stroman, USPS faces a financial crisis and every postmaster is concerned with cost savings and efficiency, but the question is how to balance those shifts. to the needs of the public.
Stroman, now a senior member of the Democratic Foundation, said: “The concern is not only that you are doing this during a pandemic, but a few months before an election with enormous consequences. “If you can’t tune the ship, if you can’t fix these things fast enough, the consequence is not just, OK, people don’t get their mail, it’s you take ownership of everyone.
“Making these changes close to the election is a high-risk proposition,” he added.
Some delays this year were due to the inability of USPS workers to work during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the fears increased after DeJoy, a major Trump sponsor with no previous USPS experience, took over the agency. Shortly after he started working at the postal service, the Washington Post and other news organizations obtained internal documents that said the agency banned overtime and that postal workers should leave letters at treat them if that keeps them going late.
Mark Jamison, a former postmaster in North Carolina who quit his job at the agency in 2012, said the idea of leaving first-class mail – including regular stamped messages – was a cause. good for the culture of USPS. “The rule has always been that you have to remove every first-class piece from the factory every day, every time,” he said. “Never, never, in the 30 years I’ve worked for the post office, have you never cut first class mail.”
Philadelphia residents reported three weeks without mail and postal staff said Philadelphia Inquirer letters were piling up in local offices. Veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs staff reported delays in the delivery of prescriptions by mail. In Minneapolis, USPS has temporarily stopped sending letters to a high-rise building, home to many low-income and immigrant residents, due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19. In April, some Wisconsin residents said they never received the ballot they requested for a statewide election. Democrats in Congress opened an investigation of the delay and asked the USPS inspector general to also investigate the matter.
“I mean, come on, we’ve got a pandemic, you’re out of the way, people are calling sick, you’re going to cut your overtime? That makes no sense, ”said Jamison. “What they are doing is unscrupulous.”
David Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, said there was no ban on overtime. The agency declined to say whether employees were instructed to leave letters.
There is concern that the delay could last until November and deprives many Americans. Most US states require absentee ballots to arrive before election day, whenever a voter sends them in the mail to be counted. USPS has long recommended that voters mail their ballot one week prior to election day to ensure they arrive on time for the count (some states continue to allow voters to request voting until day before election). According to the NPR, at least 65,000 ballots were rejected in this year’s primary elections because they were too late.
USPS denies it is slowing mailing processes and DeJoy said the agency has “ample capacity” to send ballots by mail on time. “Although I certainly have a good relationship with the president of the United States, the notion that I will make decisions regarding the Postal Service at the direction of the president, or anyone else in the administration, is completely unfounded, ”he said Friday at a meeting of the USPS governing board.
There are also some concerns about the cost different states will have to pay to send ballots. Some states send ballots as marketing mail, which is cheaper than first-class mail and has an expected delivery time of three to 10 days (first class mail is usually sent faster). In the past, USPS has been quick to forward official election mail regardless of the type of service, but in recent weeks it has signaled that it will not process election mail and that election officials will accept it. get the service they pay for.
Some Democrats have suggested that this leads to the threat of USPS increasing postage on mailed ballots, a strongly disputed USPS trait.
“There are currently no pending changes to the rate and type of mail affecting the ballot,” said Martha Johnson, a USPS spokesman in a statement. “Unfounded assertion that we intend to raise prices ahead of the upcoming presidential election to limit mail voting is completely unfounded and frivolous. The General Post Office and the organization he leads are fully committed to our role in the electoral process ”.
While Stroman agrees that the agency is capable of handling mail ballot volumes, he said DeJoy should make it clear that mail ballots need to be sent in accordance with USPS delivery standards and justified. is transparent about how the agency will deal with it. apparent delays ahead of the November election.
“I want him to tell the staff,“ This is my priority and I expect 100% of the votes we have been processed and delivered in accordance with our service standards, ”he said. to speak. “I think just making that statement would be crucial to sending a signal to the workforce [that] it is your expectation and you will put the resources in to make sure that happens. “
Art Sackler, manager of the 21st Century Postal Services Alliance, an industry group that represents heavy mailers including Amazon and eBay, says he has heard “mixed bags” from businesses in Over the past few weeks, some have reported delays. He questioned why this agency is continuing with the changes now.
“If there are any mistakes on the part of the business, the timing of this is problematic,” he said. “In a state of national emergency, the voting will take place in November, soon their peak season will come after that. Many people are saying: why not do this in January? “