Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation, union leaders and others on Monday in Baltimore decried recent measures implemented by the U.S. Postal Service that have slowed down nationwide the delivery of mail and could affect November's election when millions are expected to rely on the service to cast their vote because of the pandemic.
The officials promised to fight the changes imposed on the money-losing agency by Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor and logistics company executive, who recently took over as the new postmaster general. The measures include cutting overtime, late delivery trips and other expenses that ensure the timely arrival of mail.
“This would be unacceptable at any time, but specially so during a pandemic, when more and more people rely on the mail, and of course, during a critical election season, when more Americans than ever before will be casting their votes through the United States' mail,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said during a news conference outside the Baltimore Department of Health.
“Make no mistake, this is part of deliberate effort from the president of the United States to put out lies and misinformation... And we need to make it very clear to the American people that we are not going to allow this sabotage to stand,” Van Hollen said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended mail ballots as a way to eliminate risking exposure to the coronavirus by skipping the trip to the polls. In Maryland, local officials and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan are also urging people to vote by mail, but the state will not mail ballots to all registered voters.
Last week, Hogan approved recommendations by the state elections board to reduce the number of polling places because of a shortage of thousands of poll workers, who often are older residents — a group at high risk for coronavirus complications. So, on Election Day, in-person voting will take place at consolidated voting centers instead of the traditional precinct polling places. Some fear this will result in long lines.
Maryland voters can request an absentee ballot, but should they change their mind and want to cast their vote in person, they won't be given a traditional ballot. Instead, they will be handed a provisional ballot that will be counted and scrutinized days after Election Day to ensure they are not voting twice.
The U.S. Postal Service has warned states it cannot guarantee that all ballots cast by mail for the Nov. 3 election will arrive in time to be counted, even if ballots are mailed by state deadlines. The warning came after DeJoy eliminated most overtime for postal workers, imposed restrictions on transportation and reduced the quantity and use of mail-processing equipment.
Courtney Jenkins, a postal worker and legislative director of American Postal Workers Union Local 181, said the public did not have mail delivery issues prior to DeJoy's tenure as postmaster general, and Postal Service employees now feel they are “under attack by the commander in chief” and the agency's leader.
“What I want folks to realize is that postal clerk, that letter carrier, they are not making these decisions, they are pushing back as much as they can,” he said. "So when the postmaster says ‘I want to cut overtime,’ we are not fighting because we just want to get rich. We are fighting because those things like overtime help us get your mail to your door in a timely manner, six days a week, over 100 million addresses every day.