WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing public pressure and state lawsuits, the Postmaster general announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics warned were causing widespread delays and could disrupt voting in the November election.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would “suspend” his initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
The abrupt reversal comes as more than 20 states, from New York to California, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. The states, along with lawmakers and others, want to ensure voters are able to use mail-in ballots if they prefer to avoid polling places due to health risks from COVID-19.
“The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives,” DeJoy said in a statement.
Backlash mounting, President Donald Trump’s embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was scheduled to appear Friday before the Senate to testify on mail delivery delays and service changes that lawmakers and others warned could imperil the November election.
Trump has flatly denied he was asking for a slow-walk of the mail. But his newly-installed postmaster, a Republican donor with no previous postal management, is facing pressure by Democrats to halt any changes as millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail during the COVID-19 crisis. Demonstrations are being held Tuesday in several cities.
Key Republicans are now sounding the alarm.
In the pivotal swing state of Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost pleaded with Trump to postpone any needed changes to the Postal Service until after Election Day. GOP Sen. Rob Portman and other Republicans in Ohio’s congressional delegation urged DeJoy to “ensure timely and accurate delivery of election-related materials.”
The crisis at the Postal Service has erupted as a major election year issue as DeJoy, a Trump ally who took control of the agency in June, has swiftly engineered cuts and operational changes that are disrupting mail delivery operations and raising alarms among workers.
At the White House, Trump leveled fresh assaults Tuesday on mail-in voting and universal ballots. More Americans than ever are expected to choose to vote absentee this year instead of risking health concerns by voting at polling places during the coronavirus outbreak.
“You can’t have millions and millions of ballots sent all over the place, sent to people that are dead, sent to dogs, cats, sent everywhere,” Trump told reporters.
Trump made clear last week that he was blocking $25 billion emergency aid to the Postal Service, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states to help process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.