U.S. postal chief says will handle election mail 'securely and on time'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy on Friday told lawmakers that the Postal Service has not changed the way it handles election mail as he sought to assure the public that ballots would be handled “securely and on time” in the November presidential election.

But in his first appearance before Congress, DeJoy said he was considering “dramatic changes” to shore up Postal Service finances after the Nov. 3 election. DeJoy suspended existing cost-cutting measures on Tuesday after they led to widespread service delays.

Those delays have raised concerns that millions of mail ballots could go uncounted in November, when up to half of U.S. voters could vote by mail.

DeJoy, who has donated millions of dollars to Trump and other Republicans, said he has not spoken with the Trump campaign or White House Staff Mark Meadows about postal service operations. DeJoy said postal workers will deliver 95 percent of election mail within three days, as they did in the 2018 congressional elections.

He added that he would personally vote by mail.

“The American people should feel comfortable that the Postal Service will deliver on this election,” he told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

DeJoy, however, said he would not bring back mail-sorting machines and mailboxes that have been pulled from service in recent weeks, saying they were routine responses to changes in mail volume, which has dropped in the coronavirus pandemic. He said he had not ordered those changes.

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that an increase in mail-in ballots would lead to a surge in fraud, although he himself has voted by mail.

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Senator Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he had received more than 7,500 reports of mail delays from people in his home state of Michigan.

“If you plan to continue pursuing these kinds of changes, I think my colleagues, and many of our constituents, will continue to question whether you are the right person to lead this indispensable public institution,” Peters said.

Republican lawmakers largely defended DeJoy, saying the Postal Service needed an overhaul to shore up its shaky finances.

After he took the job in June, DeJoy imposed reductions in overtime, cuts in retail hours and restrictions on extra mail transportation trips that resulted in widespread delays nationwide.

Bigger changes could be in store after the election. The Washington Post reported on Friday that DeJoy has proposed setting higher prices for service in some states and requiring election ballots to use First Class postage instead of cheaper bulk-mail service, among other changes.

“We’re considering dramatic changes to improve service,” he said.

Six states sued DeJoy on Friday, saying the service changes have harmed their ability to conduct free and fair elections.

A group of 90 Democrats in the House of Representatives on Wednesday called on the Postal Service’s board of governors to immediately remove DeJoy “to protect this critical institution.”

DeJoy is due to testify before the Democratic-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday.

The House is set to vote on a bill on Saturday that would provide $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service and require the reversal of operational changes.

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