NATIONWIDE — The U.S. Postal Service is suspending the operational changes it recently implemented that were fueling fear about mail-in voting in the upcoming presidential election.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a statement Tuesday saying that, at least through Election Day, retail hours at post offices will not change, mail-processing equipment and public-collection boxes will not be removed, processing facilities will remain open, and overtime will be approved as needed
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said in the statement. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day.”
DeJoy’s about-face comes as he and the agency were under intense pressure from Congress and some states over the changes he made since taking over in June that were blamed for mail delays.
Adding to concerns, President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, said last week he would seek to block funding for the Postal Service, acknowledging that his position would make voting by mail during the pandemic more difficult. The president has said, without evidence, that widespread mail-in voting will lead to a fraudulent outcome.
DeJoy’s announcement came just as 20 states were announcing lawsuits against him and the USPS in a bid to undo his cutbacks at the agency.
The plaintiffs in one suit being filed Tuesday include Washington state, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
“For partisan gain, President Trump is attempting to destroy a critical institution that is essential for millions of Americans,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release. “We rely on the Postal Service for our Social Security benefits, prescriptions — and exercising our right to vote. Our coalition will fight to protect the Postal Service and uphold the rule of law in federal court.”
A separate lawsuit is being filed by Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina, among others, The Washington Post reported. New York is planning a third legal action, the newspaper said.
All the attorneys general involved are Democrats.
The lawsuits argue that the Postal Service violated the law by making operational changes without the approval of the Postal Regulatory Commission and that those changes would have hampered states’ efforts to run free and fair elections, the Post reported.
Last week, the USPS sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning them that they cannot guarantee all ballots sent by mail will be counted.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote Saturday on a bill that would also seek to roll back changes made at the Postal Service since Jan. 1. DeJoy, meanwhile, has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
DeJoy’s statement did not completely satisfy congressional Democrats.
“This is a start,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “But we still need to reverse all the damage, fully fund USPS, & investigate DeJoy’s conflicts. And we need to keep our eyes on DeJoy so he keeps his promise & doesn’t find new ways to dismantle the USPS. I’ll be watching DeJoy’s actions – not just his words.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) reiterated his call for DeJoy to resign:
“DeJoy’s statement, which says nothing about remedying the damage he’s already done and asserts USPS is ready for an influx of election mail despite all evidence to the contrary, cannot be taken in good faith,” Nadler tweeted. “House Dems will do our job and pass leg. protecting USPS on Saturday.”
Said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “They felt the heat. And that’s what we were trying to do, to make it too hot for them to handle.” She added that House plans to move forward with its vote Saturday.