A group of federal lawmakers, including US Senator Elizabeth Warren, raised the volume of their alarm about the United States Postal Service on Monday, imploring agency leaders to reverse changes to the country’s mail delivery system that they fear threaten the ability of Americans to vote in upcoming elections.
Their stern warning comes as postal workers in Massachusetts expressed confusion Monday over the recent removal of some mail-processing machines and Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin ripped the Trump administration for politicizing the process of casting a mail-in ballot.
If the postmaster general does not go along with such an effort to undo recent moves lawmakers allege have harmed mail delivery, the United States Postal Service Board of Governors has the authority to remove him from the post, according to a Monday letter to that board from Warren and a half-dozen other senators, including Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. They assert that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy “appears to be engaged in a partisan effort with the support of President Trump, to delay and degrade mail service and undermine the mission of the United States Postal Service.”
“Within days of his appointment, DeJoy has cut hours at some post offices, denied overtime to mail clerks and carriers, and required that carriers leave some mail behind,” the letter states. “Just within the last several weeks, DeJoy removed two top executives who oversee the day to day operations of the USPS, and reports indicate that the USPS is decommissioning 10% of its mail sorting machines and removing dozens of mailboxes — with no valid explanation.”
Warren and her colleagues said the changes at the USPS have already delayed mail delivery “by as much as a week,” and the Postal Service has warned 46 states that it “cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted.”
Messages left with the US Postal Service’s national press office were not returned on Monday.
Nationally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, is calling the House back into session over the crisis at the Postal Service. She is also asking representatives to appear at a post office in their district on Tuesday for a “day of action.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is discussing a lawsuit with other state attorneys general to prevent the Trump administration from potentially further curtailing Postal Service operations amid an expected rush of voting by mail in this fall’s general election, The Boston Globe reported on Sunday.
Healey’s office said Monday it had no update regarding such litigation, which could be announced as early as this week.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in New York, several individuals sued Trump, DeJoy, and the Postal Service to ensure adequate funding for postal operations.
Trump in a Monday afternoon tweet, sent an all-caps, 4-word message about the subject: “SAVE THE POST OFFICE!” He did not elaborate on Twitter.
As he left the White House Monday, Trump dismissed claims that he was trying to slow down mail processing, and claimed that he has "encouraged everybody to speed up the mail."
But just last week, Trump, vowed to block emergency funding for the postal service in the next coronavirus relief package, saying that without it, a largely mail-in voting election would not be possible.
Trump made the comments as he discussed the funding that Democrats are seeking as part of a deal on coronavirus relief: $25 billion to shore up the Postal Service and $3.6 billion for states to implement vote by mail programs.
“Those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump said during an interview with Fox Business last Thursday.
Galvin, who is the state’s top election official, said Monday that he is sharing information for potential litigation that highlights the impact any mail delays would have on his office. Primary day is Sept. 1, and the day of the general election is Nov. 3.
"Remember, in November we will take ballots after the deadline, but they have to be postmarked, so the postmark is a critical issue for us," particularly in the cases of overseas military voters, said Galvin.
Galvin said his office is working with municipalities in the state “to make sure we’re pushing out ballots as quickly as possible.” A bigger challenge will be printing the November ballot, he said, which cannot be done until the Sept. 1 results are determined.
Galvin said Trump engages in rhetoric that is “worthy of a Third World dictator.”
”I really think litigation is the only thing that matters to this administration,” said Galvin.
He added, “We have had the Postal Service delivering ballots during world wars without a problem. Why is it a problem now? Because it is politically motivated, clearly.”
Massachusetts postal workers on Monday confirmed the recent removal of some mail-processing machines. John Flattery, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 4553, which covers Central Massachusetts, said three delivery-barcode sorters, which are machines that process mail, were removed from a Shrewsbury mail distribution center earlier this summer.
He said the removal of the machines has not had an impact since the Postal Service has seen a dramatic decrease in mail since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Still, he said, it “makes no sense” why they were removed. Typically they are powered down and a tarp is thrown over them during slow months for mail until they are needed again when mail picks up in the fall. He estimated there are still between 10 and 15 such machines left in the center. He said the removal of the three machines will hopefully not be an issue in coming weeks in terms of sorting mail swiftly.
”Why they just threw them away, nobody understands,” said Flattery, whose union represents about 650 workers.
Flattery, an Oxford resident who has worked for the Postal Service for 33 years, said it is a frustrating time to be a postal worker. He thought Trump was forcing a narrative of “we can’t trust the mail” down people’s throats. He accused the president of trying to destroy USPS from within.
“He puts in a political hack and hamstrings us,” he said.
He added, “The one government agency that actually does what it’s supposed to do . . . it’s just disheartening.”
Another postal worker who works at a South Boston general mail facility said since late last year, at least 10 mail-sorting machines have been removed from the facility, a process that he said appeared to accelerate after DeJoy was appointed postmaster general in May. Since late 2019, two flat-sorters that organized oversized mail, which would include mail-in ballots, were removed, he said, leaving the facility with two such machines.
“The less machines we have, obviously the less processing ability we have,” said the worker, who requested anonymity since he was not authorized to speak, on Monday.
Christina Prignano and Matt Stout of Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used.