Wyden, Merkley raise alarms over mail delivery delays

Oregon

Wyden, Merkley among 31 senators who sent letter to Postmaster General

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As voting-by-mail increasingly becomes a nationwide issue during the runup to the November election, Oregon’s US senators held a news conference Friday with postal workers and doctors in Portland.

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley talked about the efforts President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have put in place to delay mail delivery, including delivery of prescription medicines.

“We are gonna make sure that every single ballot that is cast is gonna be counted and we are not gonna let Donald Trump and his bullies take away that sacred vote by mail effort that Oregon has spent over two decades creating,” Wyden said.

He said he is working with Gov. Kate Brown and the head of the Oregon National Guard to perhaps have the National Guard help at election time to make sure the ballots will all be received and processed, if necessary.

The Associated Press reports that in a letter Friday, the 31 senators take aim at new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a GOP fundraiser who took the post in June and has since imposed several operational changes that have led to mail backlogs across the United States. His cost-cutting measures have come as President Donald Trump rails against increases in mail-in voting and says he may hold up postal funding to impede the balloting in November.

The senators say they’ve heard from hundreds of veterans, as well as Department of Veterans Affairs staff, who cited weekslong mail delays, “causing veterans to miss doses of vital medications.”

The VA website offers assurances that prescriptions typically arrive within three to five days.

The lawmakers called on DeJoy to reassess the impact of the postal changes on veterans and urged him to work with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to reduce delays. Veterans are an important constituency for Trump, broadly supporting him in 2016 and during his presidency.

Louis DeJoy
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, is escorted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Memos from post office leadership, obtained earlier this month by The Associated Press, detailed an elimination of overtime and a halting of late delivery trips that are sometimes needed to make sure deliveries arrive on time. One document said if distribution centers are running behind, “they will keep the mail for the next day.” Another said: “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks.”

Additional records obtained by the AP outline upcoming reductions of hours at post offices, including closures during lunch and on Saturdays.

Politico reports: Former President Barack Obama condemned President Donald Trump in a new interview over his efforts to “actively kneecap” the United States Postal Service in order to frustrate mail-in voting ahead of the November election — casting the maneuvers by his White House successor as “unique to modern political history.”

Major US postal workers union endorses Biden for president

Oregon ‘has two decades experience’ in vote-by-mail

Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno issued a statement about the vote-by-mail issue and noted Oregon has two decades of experience with this.

“We at the state level are meeting with our USPS partners to ensure we are ready for November. The USPS recognizes that Oregon leads the nation with Vote by Mail and that we are using the latest USPS technology to streamline the process.”

Clarno said every ballot has a unique barcode so voters can track their ballot on the My Vote website.

“We also encourage voters to take advantage of the hundreds of conveniently located dropsites throughout the state to drop off their ballot in person,” she said. “We will continue to work with our partners like county clerks across the state to make sure all Oregonians know the best options to return their ballots, whether it’s through the mail or in secure drop boxes to meet election deadlines.”

Trump admits he’s blocking postal cash to stop mail-in votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him reelection.

President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Tuesday.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida election

Trump’s statements, including the false claim that Democrats are seeking universal mail-in voting, come as he is searching for a strategy to gain an advantage in his November matchup against Joe Biden. He’s pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust mail-in-voting legal fight in states that could decide the election.

In Iowa, which Trump won handily in 2016 but is more competitive this year, his campaign joined a lawsuit Wednesday against two Democratic-leaning counties in an effort to invalidate tens of thousands of voters’ absentee ballot applications. That followed legal maneuvers in battleground Pennsylvania, where the campaign hopes to force changes to how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots. And in Nevada, Trump is challenging a law sending ballots to all active voters.

Mitt Romney slams politicians attacking mail-in voting

His efforts could face limits. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rebuffed Republicans who challenged an agreement in Rhode Island allowing residents to vote by mail through November’s general election without getting signatures from two witnesses or a notary.

For Democrats, Trump’s new remarks were a clear admission that the president is attempting to restrict voting rights.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Biden said it was “Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an election.”

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said it was ” voter suppression to undermine the safest method to vote during a pandemic, and force Americans to risk their lives to vote.”

Negotiations over a big new virus relief package have all but ended, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the coronavirus.

While there is some common ground over $100 billion for schools and new funds for virus testing, Democrats also want other emergency funds that Trump rejects.

“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically,” Trump said during Thursday’s call-in interview.

Democrats have pushed for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the COVID-19 response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, is down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said that the agency is in a financially untenable position, but he maintains it can handle this year’s election mail. A major donor to Trump and other Republicans, DeJoy is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.

FILE – In this March 1, 2017, file photo, then Elon Trustee Louis DeJoy is honored with Elon’s Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Elon. N.C. (Kim Walker/Elon University via AP, File)

“Although 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,” he told the Postal Service’s governing board last week.

Memos obtained by The Associated Press show that Postal Service leadership has pushed to eliminate overtime and halt late delivery trips that are sometimes needed to ensure mail arrives on time, measures that postal workers and union officials say are delaying service. Additional records detail cuts to hours at post offices, including reductions on Saturdays and during lunch hours.

Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, have sent DeJoy several letters asking him to reverse his changes and criticizing what they say is a lack of openness by the agency. Late Wednesday, Senate Democrats again wrote DeJoy, this time saying postal leadership is pushing state election officials to opt for pricier first-class postage for mail-in ballots to be prioritized.

“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 Democrats wrote.

Separately, in a letter last month, the Postal Service warned Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that the agency might not be able to deliver ballots in time to be counted under the state’s deadlines for casting mail-in votes.

Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said in a statement that “certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots, may be incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” especially if election officials don’t pay more for first-class postage.

“To the extent that states choose to use the mail as part of their elections, they should do so in a manner that realistically reflects how the mail works,” he said.

In a memo to staff Thursday, DeJoy said his policies have brought “unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels,” but added that the Postal Service “must make a number of significant changes which will not be easy, but which are necessary.”

“This will increase our performance for the election and upcoming peak season and maintain the high level of public trust we have earned for dedication and commitment to our customers throughout our history,” DeJoy wrote, according to the memo obtained by the AP.

Judy Beard, legislative and political director for the American Postal Workers Union, said postal workers are up to the task of delivering mail-in ballots this year.

“We definitely know that the president is absolutely wrong concerning vote-by-mail,” she said.

FILE – In this July 31, 2020, file photo, letter carriers load mail trucks for deliveries at a U.S. Postal Service facility in McLean, Va. The success of the 2020 presidential election could come down to a most unlikely government agency: the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chair of the House subcommittee on government operations, said Trump is acknowledging that he wants to hold up funding for the U.S. Postal Service to hinder Americans from voting.

“The president admits his motive for holding USPS funding hostage is that he doesn’t want Americans to vote by mail,” Connolly said in a statement Thursday. “Why? It hurts his electoral chances. He’s putting self-preservation ahead of public safety, for an election he deserves to lose.”

Trump has requested a mail-in ballot for Florida’s primary election Tuesday. Ballots were mailed Wednesday to both the president and first lady Melania Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Trump lists as his legal address, according to online Palm Beach County elections records. Both voted by mail in the presidential preference primary in March, according to records.


Izaguirre reported from Charleston, West Virginia. The Associated Press produced this coverage with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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