Louis DeJoy, North Carolina businessman and Trump donor, began his tenure as Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service on June 15. Since then, Americans have been experiencing unprecedented slow downs in mail delivery in conjunction with President Donald Trump’s protest of mail-in voting.
After concerns of budget cuts surfaced several weeks ago, the USPS planned to divide its normal operations into three units: retail and delivery operations, logistics and processing operations, and commerce and business solutions. Over 80 Representatives expressed concerns about these new practices slowing down the mail.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, spearheaded an investigation Friday into these slowdowns and changes implemented by DeJoy.
In an interview with The Daily, Peters said that he has received nearly 8,000 complaints from constituents about slow downs of the USPS.
“I’m hearing all sorts of issues,” Peters said. “One individual talked about how when she orders drugs for her husband who is a veteran through the VA (Veterans Affairs), it normally takes three days before she gets the medicine and recently, its been extended to thirteen days. In fact, they had to wait a considerable amount of time and he missed a few days (of the medication).”
Peters said families are also not receiving paychecks, benefit checks and bills due to these slowdowns causing increased financial burden amid the pandemic. Peters said he is hopeful about receiving bipartisan support for legislation for the USPS but mentioned that he has not yet received such support.
“We are hoping that my Republican colleagues will join us in making sure that the postal service has the resources that they need to deliver the mail in a timely way,” Peters said. “With the election coming up and large numbers of absentee ballots that are going to be sent through the mail, we’ve introduced legislation to roll back these procedures that have been put in place back to what existed in January.”
DeJoy released a statement Wednesday announcing his plan to postpone cuts to the USPS budget until after November.
“The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country,” the statement read. “There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge.”
DeJoy emphasized the importance of making the Post Office run in a sustainable way, but assured the public that major changes to work towards this goal will be implemented after the institution has served its purpose in the general election.
“I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective [of sustainability], and work toward those reforms will commence after the election,” the statement read. “…To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”
Peters commented on DeJoy’s statement and said the Senate investigation into these changes would continue regardless of the proposed suspension of these changes.
“We want to get a fuller understanding of exactly what he means by that statement,” Peters said. “I think it’d clear given the public pressure that has arisen as a result of this postal issue that changes needed to be made. But we need to find out why those changes were made.”
Ryan Fisher, LSA junior and chairman of College Republicans at the University of Michigan, told The Daily in an email that there are pros and cons to the suspension of the newly implemented changes.
“There were advantages and disadvantages to the changes being implemented, but we understand the desire to appear nonpartisan in the build-up to a big election,” Fisher said. “We think that suspending these changes will not repair the laundry list of issues with the USPS, issues that themselves outlasted multiple administrations. At best, halting this transition may offer a Band-Aid in preparation for voting season. The USPS has been losing money for over a decade, so significant funding or reformation will be needed to prolong the organization’s operation.”
Fisher also expressed concern about fraud and the abilities of the USPS to deliver ballots in time to be counted in the election. According to studies done by Brookings, data shows that rates of voter fraud by mail remain exceedingly low.
“People should be cautious with regard to voting by mail,” Fisher said. “There has been fraud in some instances and we worry about potential mix-ups or mailing delays. The USPS notified 46 states that they may not be able to deliver mail-in ballots on time at one point, an alarming statistic that presents a potential vulnerability in the system.”
Kinesiology Senior Joseph Connolly told the Daily in an email that he requested his absentee ballot in Massachusetts on July 27 and still has not received it.
“I called my local elections office at the beginning of August, and they told me that they had not even received all of the ballots for mailing yet because of increased volume,” Connolly said. “My ballot was not sent until August 11, and it has not gotten to Michigan, presumably because of the lags in mail time lately. I am actually nervous that my ballot for the primary will not arrive in time, and my vote will not be counted in an election that is rather important to me.”
Connolly expressed support for the mail-in voting process especially in relation to voter turnout.
“I think voting by mail is very important,” Connolly said. “I honestly didn’t know that other states utilized it prior to COVID, but now I wonder why all states do not have the option. It seems, based on voter turnout, that there is an access issue when it comes to voting in person, and I think that voting by mail solves a lot of problems.”
Peters emphasized the importance of requesting and returning ballots early, but said the best practice is to drop off absentee ballots at the city clerk’s office.
“I think it’s just good practice to mail it in as early as you can,” Peters said. “But to be 100 percent sure, drop it off at your clerk’s office.”
In the Senate hearing Friday, DeJoy testified before members of the Senate about the changes made to the USPS and explained the rationale behind his decision to roll back the new initiatives to the postal system.
“I recognize that it has become impossible to separate the necessary long-term reform efforts we will need to undertake from the broader political environment surrounding the election, DeJoy said. “I do not want to pursue any immediate efforts that might be utilized to tarnish the Postal Service brand, particularly as it relates to our role in the democratic process.”
DeJoy emphasized the safety of mail-in voting to the committee.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said. “…I think the American public should be able to vote by mail.”
Peters said, ultimately, he wants Americans to be able to continue to rely on the post office as they have for years.
“Bottom line (is that) we want to make sure that folks can rely on the postal service just like they have been able to rely on it for the last 245 years,” Peters said. “The postal service is the only delivery organization that delivers to every single address in America, and it’s a core service provided to the American people that needs to continue to be provided in an efficient and reliable way.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.