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

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement on Tuesday that he would halt operational changes and cost-cutting to the U.S. Postal Service until after the 2020 election to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."

Why it matters: Widespread delays and backlogs had prompted allegations from Democratic lawmakers that DeJoy and President Trump were attempting to undermine the Postal Service ahead of an election that will see a record number of mail-in ballots.

  • The House was poised to return to session on Saturday to pass USPS-related legislation, and DeJoy had been called to testify before both the House and Senate.
  • President Trump has suggested that the USPS won't be able to handle "universal" mail-in ballots, which he has baselessly claimed will lead to a "rigged" election, without extra funding.

Between the lines: The USPS alerted 46 states and Washington, D.C. at the end of July that it cannot ensure ballots sent by mail in the general election will arrive in time to be counted. Dejoy's statement does not address what changes the service has made since the letters were sent.

What he's saying: "I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election."

  • "In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. "
  • "To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."

DeJoy added: "I want to assure all Americans of the following:

  • Retail hours at Post Offices will not change. 
  • Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.
  • No mail processing facilities will be closed.
  • And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed."

The bottom line: "The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall," DeJoy wrote.

The other side: “Postmaster General DeJoy’s announcement of what may be a temporary pause in operational changes delaying the mail is a necessary but insufficient first step in ending the President’s election sabotage campaign," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

  • "This pause only halts a limited number of the Postmaster’s changes, does not reverse damage already done, and alone is not enough to ensure voters will not be disenfranchised by the President this fall."
  • “The House will be moving ahead with our vote this Saturday on Chairwoman Maloney’s ‘Delivering for America Act,’ which prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020 and provides $25 billion in critical funding to support the Postal Service."

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Early voting eclipses 2016 total with 12 days until election

People stand in line to vote early in Fairfax, Virginia in September. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Americans have cast more than 47.1 million ballots in the 2020 presidential election, surpassing the total early-vote count for 2016 with 12 days left until Election Day, according to a Washington Post analysis of voting data.

Why it matters: The election is already underway, as many states have expanded early and mail-in voting options because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated Oct 20, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on America's voting barriers

On Tuesday, October 23, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Margaret Talev, and Alexi McCammond hosted a virtual event on barriers to voting access across the country, featuring Southwest Voter Registration Education Project President Lydia Camarillo, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade and "The West Wing" actors Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff.

Benjamin Hovland unpacked how to vote safely during this unprecedented year and highlighted the uptick in mail-in ballots and early voting.

  • On a notable increase in early ballots being cast: "We're seeing a surge in early in-person voting...We're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • On the impact of the pandemic on mail-in ballots: "About 25% of Americans vote by mail in a normal year, or in 2016. So we're going to see an increase probably closer to half."

Lydia Camarillo discussed the importance of the Latino electorate in American elections.

  • The impact on November's election: "I think that the Latino electorate can be the deciding factor in this election — in partnership with other groups like the Black community, the Muslim community, Asian American community and progressives. They will decide the election."

Desmond Meade, who helped lead the 2018 fight for Amendment 4 in Florida, unpacked the expansion of voting rights and Florida's impact on similar state-level policy changes across the country.

  • On restoring felon rights: "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff discussed the recent "The West Wing" episode on HBO Max and the experience of reuniting as an ensemble cast.

  • Richard Schiff on the meaning of the episode: "It's a rare thing in this day and age around the world to have the privilege to vote and the right to vote. And we should be very careful to not let it be extinguished and that this episode addresses that."

Axios Vice President of Event Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Head of Policy Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Heather Foster who discussed how transportation plays a critical role in voting access.

  • "We took a look at the statistics that came out of 2016, and it was estimated at the time that more than 15 million eligible voters did not go to the polls because they lacked a way to get there."

This event was the first in a yearlong series called Hard Truths, where we'll be discussing the wide ranging impact of systemic racism in America. Read our deep dive on race and voting here.

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.