Earlier this week, the Trump-allied Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a public statement in which he claimed to be suspending policy changes at the Postal Service that had slowed down the mail and sparked concerns about the security of mail-in voting in upcoming elections. Now, leaked emails have revealed that despite that claim of a suspension, managers were instructed by the Postal Service’s Director of Maintenance Operations Kevin Couch “not to reconnect / reinstall machines that have previously been disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager.” A follow-up email sent to individual managers insisted that they are “not to reconnect any machines that have previously been disconnected.”
The removal of mail sorting machines has been one of the policy developments at the Postal Service that have sparked concern. According to the American Postal Workers Union, the Postal Service had plans to decommission a full 671 of the machines, which translates to the planned removal of about thirteen percent of its entire supply of mail sorting machines. That number of machines, together, could handle about 21.4 million pieces of paper mail every hour — and as the general election approaches, many observers expect Americans to use mail-in voting at high rates.
On Wednesday morning, Grand Rapids, Michigan-area reporter Heather Walker revealed that work on removing the mail sorting machines was still ongoing, the day after DeJoy claimed that the policy changes would be suspended, although the Michigan disassembly did eventually stop. “Postal Service officials and industry insiders” claimed to The Washington Post that the removals “were part of a long-range plan, one that reflects Americans’ diminishing use for letters and growing reliance on package delivery.”
After a Wednesday meeting with DeJoy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) revealed that DeJoy had apparently made no indication that he planned to reverse any of the operations changes that he had implemented. She said that DeJoy “frankly admitted that he had no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other key mail infrastructure that have been removed and that plans for adequate overtime, which is critical for the timely delivery of mail, are not in the works.” Besides the election-related mail that could be seriously impacted by slowdowns in mail delivery, a whole array of other very important items are also sent through the mail on a daily basis, including critical medications. DeJoy’s efficiency plans have run up against Coronavirus-related growth in need for the mail.
DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the Senate on Friday and the House on Monday. Meanwhile, on Saturday, the House is slated to vote on a bill called the Delivering For America Act, which would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing any policy or operations changes that would “impede prompt, reliable, and efficient service” at any point before the end of the Coronavirus pandemic or January 2021, whichever comes first. The reference point would be the state of affairs on January 1, 2020 — the “operations or service levels” that were in effect on that day would be the protected baseline from which imminent diversions would be prohibited. (The bill will also include $25 billion in financial assistance for the Postal Service.)
Trump, for his part, has ranted and raved against mail-in voting as supposedly full of opportunities for fraud, which is a lie. In reality, he seems paranoid about the possibility of losing the election if Americans get the chance to make their voices heard en masse.