US Postal Service director halts controversial changes until after election

Washington, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- The director of the US Postal Service, Louis DeJoy, said Tuesday that he will suspend until after the Nov. 3 election the controversial changes he launched at the agency, changes that many feared would delay or make impossible the processing of millions of mail-in votes.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail,” DeJoy said in a statement that he was pausing the campaign of changes to the Postal Service, adding that starting Oct. 1 “we will engage standby resources in all areas … (to) satisfy any unforeseen demand.”

The announcement is a step back in the Donald Trump administration’s campaign to reform the postal service, a plan that had sparked enormous controversy around the US, above all after the agency admitted that the delays could affect the processing of millions of mail-in ballots in 46 of the country’s 50 states.

DeJoy, a long-time GOP donor and whom the president named to be director of the Postal Service last June, said that the operational changes in the agency were crafted before he took over in the post.

“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability,” DeJoy said in the statement released by Postal Service on Tuesday. “I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election.”

“In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives – efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service – that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” he said.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy added.

It is worth noting – and critics have pointed out – that “suspending” the changes does not mean “reversing” the changes that have already been made.

DeJoy guaranteed that, until the Nov. 3 elections, automatic mail processing machines, and the blue public mailboxes where mail can be deposited for collection will “remain where they are,” and that no facilities for processing mail will be closed and the working hours at postal facilities will not be changed or curtailed.

His original plan – ostensibly to cut costs at the agency – included deactivating 10 percent of the automatic mail processing machines around the country, some 671 units, and he recently had locked or removed public mailboxes in states such as California, Arizona, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Montana, according to The Washington Post.

Trump had backed the changes DeJoy had been implementing and in an interview last week he admitted that he had blocked the appropriation of new funds for the agency precisely to prevent it from having sufficient resources to guarantee that it could process mail-in voting for the November elections, which include the presidential and many House and Senate races.

Trump has expressed his vehement opposition to mail-in voting, which he has said is only justified when voters are outside their home states on election day, and he has denounced that method of casting ballots by saying that it could give rise to election fraud, despite the fact that numerous studies have proved that such a situation is extremely unlikely.

The controversy surrounding the Postal Service led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic, to cut short the lower house’s recess with the aim of requiring lawmakers to vote on a bill that would stop DeJoy’s plan.

The Postal Service chief is scheduled to testify on Friday before the Senate and next Monday before the House on the matter.

In addition, on Tuesday it was announced that at least 20 states were planning to sue the Postal Service and its director, seeking to reverse the changes in a complaint that included Trump himself.

The move, headed by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, was to be joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to a draft published by The Washington Post.

“This is the first lawsuit on this subject,” Frosh said, noting that the administration’s move to effect changes in the Postal Service represented “the most ambitious, grandest, most deceitful plan in American history to disrupt an American election” and calling it a direct “attack” on US democracy.


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