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Election officials are seeking clarification from the Postal Service on how the latest cuts will affect what is expected to be an avalanche of postal voting in the upcoming election. Changes in postal operations have already led to postal delays across the country, raising alarms about what will happen in November.
NPR has learned that a group of secretaries of state, who are responsible for holding the elections, sought to meet this week with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed to the job in May. But that meeting has not been scheduled yet.
“Unfortunately, [we] “You have not yet had a direct conversation with the US Postman,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told NPR on Thursday. Hopefully, we will do that soon. “Toulouse Oliver is the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and one of those who requested the meeting.
It was not clear why the invitation should not be accepted, but those familiar with the exchange said the delay is unusual, given that election officials will start sending absentee ballots immediately in September.
The secretaries – who included Frank LaRose of Ohio, Jocelyn Benson of Michigan and Kyle Ardoin of Louisiana – said in the letter that they “see the USPS as a lifelong partner in administering a safe, successful election and would like to learn.” more about any planned changes around the USPS service due to COVID-19, preparations for the post-election increase regarding USPS staffing levels and processing time, and other related issues. “
In an email to NPR regarding the request, the Postal Service responded that it “appreciates its long relationship with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). We have been in contact with NASS and are working to set up a meeting between “Our election Post stakeholders as well as theirs. We continue to work with NASS, all Secretaries of State and Election Boards and look forward to a successful general election in November.”
DeJoy, a key donor to President Trump and other Republicans, has raised concerns between election officials and lawmakers on both sides by making major changes to the way the U.S. Postal Service does business, including banning employees. to work overtime and impose employment freezing. He says the service is facing a $ 11 billion shortfall this year and such changes are needed.
But in its first public statement last week, DeJoy also reaffirmed the Postal Service’s commitment to sending postal mail, saying the organization has “ample capacity to deliver all postal items safely and on time.”
Still, President Trump has disputed that claim, repeatedly saying the Postal Service will not be able to handle the expected flooding of absentee ballots without a major injection of funds, which he opposes. “They need that money in order to have the job at the post office so they can get all these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network on Thursday.
The Postal Service has also raised concerns by sending letters recently to a number of states, including Pennsylvania, warning that current deadlines for requesting and returning ballots in absentia make it impossible to guarantee that ballots will be delivered on time.
Pennsylvania allows voters to request a ballot at the end of Oct. 27, but under current law it must be returned and accepted by Nov. 3 to count. The Postal Service has recommended that voters allow at least one week for ballots to be submitted.
These issues make it even more urgent for the postmaster to meet with secretaries of state, says David Becker, who heads the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research.
“It is perfectly reasonable for a bipartisan group of election officials to want more information on whether the USPS can meet its obligations to serve American voters, especially just 81 days after election day,” he said. “The fact that the master post general does not respond to their concerns is unusual and disturbing.”
For the most part, election officials have worked closely with their local post offices in the past to ensure ballot papers are delivered on time. Toulouse Oliver expressed confidence that that relationship would continue.
“I have a lot of confidence and trust in our postal and regional employees and the postal service, who, again, reiterate the time and place that electoral post is extremely important to them and to the postal service, and that they will, again, treating it as the highest absolute priority over the next few months, “she said.
Right now, state and local election officials are trying to set up postal voting procedures for November. Officials are advising voters to request their ballots and return them as soon as possible to avoid rejection of their votes because they arrive too late. Tens of thousands of primary ballots this year were rejected for this reason.
Many states are also creating safe boxes where voters can deposit their ballots for later collection by election officials and do not need to depend on the post office to hand them over.