U.S. election mail will be handled ‘securely and on time’: Post chief

WASHINGTON — U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Friday told lawmakers that the Postal Service would deliver ballots “securely and on time” in the November presidential election as he faced questions about political interference in the mail system.

In his first public appearance before Congress, DeJoy sought to tamp down concerns that service delays prompted by his cost-cutting measures could result in millions of uncounted ballots in the Nov. 3 election and help Republican President Donald Trump.

“As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on-time. This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and Election Day,” said.

Under pressure from the public and lawmakers, DeJoy on Tuesday suspended all mail service changes until after the election. Critics feared they would interfere with mail-in balloting, which is expected to be much more widely used amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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, according to a copy of his prepared statement.

Republican committee chairman Ron Johnson defended DeJoy, citing his “commendable attempt to reduce those excess costs that are now being cynically used to create this false political narrative.”

Democrats will want to know whether DeJoy plans to undo changes to the mail made in recent weeks. Changes that threatened to slow mail delivery – and in some cases, already have – include reductions in overtime, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips, and new mail-sorting and delivery policies, enacted in an attempt to cut costs.

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

Any signs that Republican senators are unhappy with DeJoy’s cost-cutting efforts could suggest his tenure as postmaster general is at risk. DeJoy, a major political donor and ally of Trump, assumed the job in June.

A group of 90 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday called on the Postal Service’s board of governors to immediately remove DeJoy “to protect this critical institution,” according to a letter sent to board members.

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.