Delaware plans to file lawsuit over Postal Service disruptions

WILMINGTON — As Delaware’s congressional delegation gathered to promote protecting nationwide postal service operations prior to November’s election, their efforts seemingly received a boost Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, along with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, all Democrats, stood together in front of the Wilmington Post Office, calling for increased oversight of the United States Postal Service as the specter of mail-in ballots looms.

Just prior to the news conference, United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a statement defending his actions as necessary reforms and pledging the USPS “is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.”

The postmaster announced that reform initiatives will be suspended until after the election is concluded in November, pledging that:

• Retail hours at post offices will not change.

• Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.

• No mail processing facilities will be closed.

• And a reassertion that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.

Also, according to Mr. DeJoy, expansion of the USPS election mail task force will boost communication and coordination with state and local election officials.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings joined the “Day of Action” event, announcing an upcoming lawsuit against the USPS regarding the supposed infringements on the right to vote based on cutbacks to the capacity for delivering the daily mail. Other attorneys general nationwide are suing as well, she said. The lawsuit will be filed this week, according to the AG’s office.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest creating high levels of anxiety, according to Ms. Jennings, “more Americans that ever before are rightly worrying ‘Is my mail going to get delivered and is my vote going to count?’

”Lifesaving drugs are being delayed because of the action of the postmaster. Checks that people depend on are being delayed because of the actions of this postmaster.

“We all rely on one of America’s oldest and most venerable public service, not a business, a service that every American should rely upon and now among a pandemic, millions of Americans will rely on the mail and make their voices heard in November.

“This is not just a crisis it is a sabotage on the most fundamental right we have …”

Ms. Jennings saluted Delaware’s congressional delegation for joining the push to hold Mr. DeJoy accountable.

“(It is) no coincidence that Mr. DeJoy has written this letter somewhat backing off,” she maintained. “They are holding his feet to the fire.”

Sen. Coons, the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over USPS, vowed to continue oversight on the USPS.

“The recent changes made to USPS operations have created massive and unprecedented disruptions in mail deliveries in Delaware and across the country,” he said.

“During a public health crisis, it is more important than ever to have a robust postal system that all Americans have access to without concern.”

With a vote coming on the Delivering for America Act prohibiting changes to USPS operations and services in place since Jan. 1, Rep. Blunt Rochester said she looked “forward to returning to Washington on Saturday to join with my colleagues in the House to prevent the continuation of these damaging policies.”

Sen. Carper, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, pointed to an appearance from Postmaster Dejoy’s appearance at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Friday morning.

“When scores of Delawareans up and down our state don’t receive their mail, including prescription medications, paychecks, bills, and letters, in a timely manner for no apparent reason, it raises eyebrows,” he said.

“The fact that these slowdowns are happening during a pandemic and right before an election where a record number of Americans plan to vote by mail — and while the president bashes mail-in voting — is deeply troubling,”

Trina Wynn, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 152, said six of the 20 letter-sorting machines in the only mail processing plant in the state have been removed from that New Castle location. Mr. DeJoy has also instituted overtime cuts and restricted the use of “late” trucks, which deliver excess mail at the end of the day, Ms. Wynn said.

“Postal workers and the American Postal Workers Union vehemently oppose any action that would slow down the mail and undermine the public Postal Service,” she said. “Also, postal workers are firm in our commitment to serving the public. We treat the mail as if it were our own.”

She’s worried the decisions could impact the election, preventing people from receiving and submitting their ballots in time.

While the postmaster general claimed the cutbacks have been made due to cost and low volume, Ms. Wynn said she doesn’t buy that.

“We know that the data reports that they pulled to support that, they culled the data from the summer time … and everyone knows that during the summer, the mail volume is light anyway because a lot of people are on vacation, the schools are out,” she said.

As August turns to September, the volume picks up again, especially so in election years, Ms. Wynn noted.

Whether the USPS reassembles or adds machines to replace the six that have been dismantled remains unknown. For her part, Ms. Wynn certainly hopes so but is not especially optimistic.

Election Commissioner Anthony Albence is urging voters to turn in their ballots as soon as possible to minimize the risk of disruption.

“Delaware is a “ballot in hand” state, meaning that the returned ballot must reach the county elections office that issued the ballot by the time polls close (8PM local time) on Election Day,” he wrote in an email.

Drop boxes will be set up outside each county elections office to make it easier for people to turn in their ballots, according to Mr. Albence.

Voters can request a ballot online at ivote.de.gov.

WP RSS Plugin on WordPress