Ruth Conniff

Senate Democrats Demand Postmaster Address Delays

The Senators urge the postmaster not to make it harder for people to vote.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Aug 14th, 2020 01:14 pm
An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined her Democratic colleagues in the Senate in sending a letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy expressing “significant concern” about policies DeJoy is implementing that will increase the cost of election-related mail and slow down delivery.

The senators wrote to DeJoy  “We … urge you not to take any action that makes it harder and more expensive for Americans to vote.”

“Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem — during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” the senators wrote. “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 senators expressed particular concern about reports that the Postal Service has sent letters to state election officials indicating that it will abandon its longstanding practice of automatically treating all election mail as First Class, meaning it is delivered within a 1-to-3 day window.

“Many state deadlines allow voters to request absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots within a few days of Election Day,” the senators point out, “so it is vital that standard delivery times remain low and pricing remain consistent with past practices to which election officials and voters are accustomed.”

The letter points out that election officials, whose budgets are particularly strained this year due to increased absentee ballot requests during the pandemic, lack the resources to pay for First Class mail as the postmaster has said they must do in order to ensure timely delivery.

Congress has so far only provided $400 million in emergency funds to election officials during the pandemic, far less than the $3.5 billion for universal mail-in voting and $25 billion for the postal service Democrats say is necessary to ensure safe and secure elections.

President Donald Trump has opposed the extra funding. In March, he said on Fox News that funding for elections proposed by Democrats in their coronavirus relief bill would lead to “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Speaking with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network on Thursday morning, “Trump appeared to confirm that he opposes Democrats’ proposed funding for mail-in balloting and the U.S. Postal Service in order to make it more difficult to expand voting by mail,” Aaron Blake writes in The Fix column for The Washington Post.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “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 has repeatedly claimed, despite evidence to the contrary, that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud. At a press briefing this week, he appeared triumphant about the difficulty of achieving mail-in voting without sufficient funding for the post office. “They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said. “Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?”

Meanwhile, in their letter to DeJoy, the Democratic senators concluded: “As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail.”

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

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