US postal chief pledges to prioritize election mail

Washington, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- The United States Postal Service is equal to the challenge of handling a unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Friday, rejecting claims that he is trying to hamper voting-by-mail at the behest of 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 of delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time,” he said during an online session with senators.

DeJoy, a major donor to Trump and other Republicans, appeared at a virtual hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee three days after announcing he would put changes to the Postal Service on hold until after the election.

Democrats have criticized DeJoy, who became postmaster in June, for moves they say undermine the ability of people to cast ballots by mail even as the coronavirus pandemic makes in-person voting a risky proposition.

Changes to procedures and schedules have already led to a slowdown in deliveries, especially in rural areas, and people who get their prescription drugs by mail are reporting having to wait longer than usual for medications.

“I think the American public should be able to vote by mail, and the Postal Service will support it,” DeJoy said Friday, denying that he ever had a discussion with Trump about the Postal Service.

Trump said last week that he was blocking additional funds for the Postal Service because of his opposition to massive mail-in voting, though the president himself has voted absentee for years.

Without citing any evidence, the real estate mogul turned politician has asserted repeatedly that mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud.

“They are sending out 51,000,000 Ballots to people who haven’t even requested a Ballot. Many of those people don’t even exist. They are trying to STEAL this election. This should not be allowed!,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

The committee chair, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, began Friday’s hearing by accusing Democrats of engaging in “character assassination” against DeJoy.

“According to Democrats, the postmaster is trying to sabotage the postal system to disenfranchise voters in the upcoming election,” the senator said, decrying what he called a “false political narrative.”

Johnson praised DeJoy for reducing costs at the Postal Service, which employs more than 633,000 people nationwide.

But Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the panel, had nothing positive to say about DeJoy’s job performance.

“The Postal Service has always delivered, but, Mr. DeJoy, I don’t think you have,” Peters said. “You have undermined one of our nation’s most trusted institutions and wreaked havoc on families, on veterans, seniors, rural communities and on people all across our country.”

Peters said he had received more than 7,500 complaints about mail delays from Michigan residents.

“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,” the Democratic lawmaker said. EFE jab/dr

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