Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of United States Postal Service has been under scrutiny for his recent changes impacting deliveries for Americans, benefits for workers and mail-in ballot applications for the November election.
On Tuesday, he suspended any changes that could impact the General Election until after the contest “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
DeJoy said retail hours at post offices will not change and mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain in place despite earlier reports. The postmaster general added that mail processing facilities will be open, and overtime will continue to be approved as needed.
DeJoy’s announcement came the same day several U.S. lawmakers met outside of the service’s headquarters in Washington D.C. to discuss concerns. Among them were Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th) and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and other Democrats from the region.
U.S. Rep. Wexton, who represents Loudoun County, said she heard from more than 3,000 constituents in less than 24 hours about their medication and deliveries being delayed. She said she also heard from letter carriers being told to leave first-class mail behind.
Most constituents said they use USPS to pay bills, stay in touch with loved ones, vote, receive prescriptions and conduct business operations, according to Wexton.
“Clearly Louis DeJoy has messed with the wrong community,” Wexton said. “It's obviously touched a nerve, and they got caught red-handed, as [House Majority] Leader [Steny] Hoyer said. So, I'm glad that they're backing off making these changes, but you'll forgive me for being a little bit skeptical.”
Warner, who compared the current situation to the story in the 1997 film "The Postmaster," said actions to delay mail may have impact on voting in Virginia, which starts as early as Sept. 19.
"If they're not able to vote because you've got a president of the United States that is trying to do everything legal and otherwise to impede mail-in or absentee voting, then you're seeing an effort to try to steal the election,” Warner said.
The postmaster general, who was formerly a Republican fundraiser and remains close Trump ally, called the USPS “a broken business model” before starting on June 15. He later cut back overtime and directed workers to leave shipments behind if they are late to distribution centers, according to multiple reports.
DeJoy is expected to testify in Congress about some of his actions. His former company, XPO, is a contractor for USPS, and he’s also purchased stock for the service’s competitor, Amazon.
The House of Representatives will return to session on Aug. 22 to consider legislation to protect the USPS from political interference and ensure that it has funding and support aimed at preventing delays and better serving the public.
“If Louis DeJoy and Donald Trump are serious about protecting the postal service, they will give their blessing to this legislation, and Donald Trump will sign it into law when it passes the Senate,” Wexton said in closing.
In the commonwealth Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) proposed efforts to protect voter rights by permitting localities to use drop-off boxes or locations.
Northam is also proposing to set aside $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots, as well as a measure allowing Virginians to fix an error on their absentee ballot. Currently, applications with errors are discarded.
Northam unveiled the measures during a virtual joint meeting with state lawmakers. The proposals will be considered by legislators during the special General Assembly session that started on Tuesday.
“As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we must take additional steps to make it easier to vote, not harder,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “With these measures, we will protect public health and ensure Virginians can safely exercise their right to vote in the November election. Whether you put your ballot in the mail or vote in-person, voting will be safe and secure in our commonwealth.”
On Tuesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) joined other attorney generals in challenging the Trump Administration’s operational changes at the USPS. The lawsuit states it impacts vote-by-mail elections, seniors and veterans, asserting that the changes made to the USPS are unlawful and seeking to block to moves.
“There is absolutely no plausible justification for why these changes were made,” Herring said in a prepared statement. “Even more importantly, these changes affect more than just voting – Virginians are having trouble getting life-saving medications, bills and other payments could be late, and other necessary goods might not arrive on time."