En español | U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promised a Senate committee Friday that 95 percent of election mail will be delivered in one to three days, just as it was for the 2018 election. The new leader of the postal service also said that a combination of efficiency changes and the coronarvirus outbreak led to delivery delays that many veterans and older Americans have experienced this summer.
DeJoy testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, just days after he reversed a number of initiatives he put in place since he took over responsibility for the agency on June 15. That reversal occurred in the aftermath of strong concerns raised on multiple fronts, including from AARP. DeJoy is scheduled to appear before a House committee on Monday.
“The postal service will deliver every ballot,” DeJoy told the committee. “I think the American public should be able to vote by mail.” DeJoy also said that he plans to vote that way in November and suggested that voters planning to cast ballots through the mail should vote early.
AARP urged protection of vital mail services
In a letter to DeJoy on Aug. 17, AARP expressed growing concern that recent changes he had made could compromise the health of older Americans as well as their ability to vote safely in the November elections.
“While AARP shares your goal of ensuring the United States Postal Service (USPS) operates in an effective and efficient manner, we urge you to suspend any adjustments that could negatively affect service during the pandemic,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in the letter.
At Friday’s hearing, DeJoy reiterated his decision to suspend some of the initiatives that have been criticized. For example, in recent weeks, there have been reports of bulk mail sorting machines being removed from post offices and delays in mail delivery. DeJoy told the committee that while no more sorting machines will be removed from processing centers, those already taken away will not be returned because they are “not needed.” DeJoy also confirmed that no more collection boxes will be removed, no mail processing facilities will be closed, hours at post offices will not change and overtime will be approved as needed.
DeJoy acknowledged that changes he made to the way the nation’s mail trucks are deployed in an effort to increase efficiency as well as personnel shortages caused by the pandemic has resulted in delays in mail deliveries. He said what was expected to be delays of a few days ended up being a few weeks.
‘A lifeline for older Americans’
The postal service recently sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning that ballots for the November election may not be delivered in time for them to be counted. AARP has become increasingly concerned that recent changes “may unduly restrict the ability of all Americans to safely participate in the upcoming elections, whether they choose to vote from home or in person,” LeaMond said. DeJoy also said that he was expanding a leadership task force on election mail in an effort to better work with election officials across the country.
“The postal service has proven to be a lifeline for older Americans, especially those in rural communities, as well as those with medical conditions who are most at risk from the coronavirus,” she noted. “More than ever before, people are relying on the USPS to deliver their lifesaving prescription medications and other necessities, allowing them to remain safely at home.” The letter also pointed out that especially those without internet access rely on the postal service “to deliver vital information about their health and finances.”
The letter called on the postal service to be “more forthcoming and transparent regarding any changes, including a more detailed cost-benefit analysis of the operational changes you have made and will be making to assure timely delivery of all mail, including election-related mail.”
Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 18, 2020. It was updated to reflect the Senate Committee hearing.