Maryland’s U.S. senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin joined Senate Democrats this week in calling on the U.S. Postmaster General to address recent reports of increased delivery times and costs for election mail.
In an open letter sent Wednesday to the Trump administration’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the Democratic lawmakers say recent changes to long-standing postal service practices could hold up deliveries and raise costs for absentee ballots. The letter urges DeJoy to pause any further action that “makes it harder and more expensive for states and election jurisdictions to mail ballots.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
“Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem — during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” the letter states. “Instead of taking steps to increase your agency’s ability to deliver for the American people, you are implementing policy changes that make matters worse, and the Postal Service is reportedly considering changes that would increase costs for states at a time when millions of Americans are relying on voting by mail to exercise their right to vote.”
The letter also was signed by the Senate Democratic Caucus, including senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Gary Peters of Michigan; Tom Carper of Delaware and Chuck Schumer of New York.
The letter goes on to express concern that the Postal Service will not automatically treat all election mail as First Class.
“If any changes are made to longstanding practices of moving election mail just months ahead of the 2020 general election, it will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions,” the letter states.
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A Senate panel that oversees the postal service has launched an investigation into the delays.
Critics say DeJoy has reduced overtime and imposed other measures that have slowed deliveries. Some see more nefarious intentions beyond the cost-cutting that DeJoy cites, saying the delays could affect the November election, leaving ballots uncounted or casting doubt on the outcome.
On Friday, DeJoy denied that he was deliberately slowing down mail service and said cost cutting was necessary with the agency losing $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June. He announced an overhaul of the leadership team, saying it would improve efficiency.
DeJoy said the changes — which include a management hiring freeze — would “align functions based on core business operations.‘'
The political battle has thrust the Postal Service, which polls have shown is the most popular government agency, into the spotlight as residents in the Baltimore area and elsewhere say they simply want to get their mail in a reasonable time. On social media, posters suggested buying stamps and USPS gift shop merchandise to help the beleaguered postal service.
DeJoy also said Friday that despite the pandemic leading unprecedented numbers to vote by mail, the agency “has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on time ... and we will do so.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Jean Marbella, Alison Knezevich and Emily Opilo contributed to this article.