Aug 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Dems raise alarm over changes to Postal Service's election mail processing practices

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy walking through the Capitol on August 5.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy walking through the Capitol on August 5. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House and Senate Democrats wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday, urging him not to issue new directives for handling election mail ahead of November's general election.

Why it matters: Democrats fear changes to election mail processing practices "will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions," per a letter written by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and signed by the 47-member Democratic caucus.

Context: DeJoy announced on Aug. 8 that he restructured USPS's leadership, eliminating two officials who oversee day-to-day operations and implementing other cost-cutting measures — changes that Democrats worry will hamstring deliveries.

  • "USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall told state leaders that, depending on their respective deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot and casting a vote through the postal system, sending election items as bulk mail could cause voters to miss crucial cutoff points," the Washington Post writes.

What they're saying: “Many state deadlines allow voters to request absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots within a few days of Election Day, 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," Senate Democrats wrote.

  • They requested additional communication from state and local election officials “regarding the service standards that will be applied to election mail.”

175 House Democrats signed a separate letter on Wednesday addressed to DeJoy, writing: “The House is seriously concerned that you are implementing policies that accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service, including directing Post Offices to no longer treat all election mail as first class."

The other side: "To ensure that voters who wish to use the mail to vote can do so successfully, it is critical that election officials and voters are mindful of the time that it takes for us to deliver ballots, whether it is a blank ballot going to a voter or a completed ballot going back to election officials," the Postal Service said in a statement, per the Post.

  • "In many cases, certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots, may be incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards, especially if election officials use marketing mail to send blank ballots to voters."

Of note: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at reversing the recent USPS changes.

Go deeper: An election like no other

Go deeper