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Postal Changes Threaten Vote-By-Mail Election, Rep. Connolly Says

NOEL KING, HOST:

More Americans are expected to cast their ballots by mail in November's election than ever before. Is the U.S. Postal Service prepared? Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is in charge. He was appointed back in May saying this...

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LOUIS DEJOY: The Postal Service is older than our nation. We have served the United States through extraordinary circumstances, such as wars, pandemics and economic depressions. But we stand on the shoulders of the men and women who built this institution.

KING: DeJoy has donated to President Trump's campaign. He was appointed by the governing board of the Postal Service. The Washington Post now reports that since he arrived, there's been some cost cutting, eliminating overtime, allowing carriers to just leave mail behind at distribution centers if they thought it would cause a delay for carriers. Some Democrats want to know what's going on. And they wrote a letter to DeJoy asking as much. One of them is Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who's with me now. Good morning, sir.

GERRY CONNOLLY: Good morning.

KING: Why do these reported operational changes, like eliminating overtime, concern you?

CONNOLLY: Because it interferes with the delivery of mail. Mail volume has gone down, but, for example, package delivery has gone up. But as we're getting ready for this election - and, remember, absentee ballots in many states start in mid-September. So mail ballots are, you know, just weeks away. And seeing disruption of service, seeing cutbacks in actual filling up of trucks and delivering of mail on the same day and cutting back on overtime is a direct threat to our ability to carry out this election by mail.

KING: How so? When you think in your head of the nightmare scenario, the thing that inspired you to write this letter saying what's going on, what are you envisioning might happen exactly?

CONNOLLY: If, for example, you live in a state that says a ballot has to be postmarked by the day of the election, November 3, and it has to be delivered within a week, say, of November 3 and it's delivered, say, 10 days after November 3, your ballot is invalidated. If you live in a state that says the ballot has to be delivered by November 3, then you're really in trouble if you mail it a few days before it and because of these disruptions and delivery, it doesn't get there in time.

KING: OK. So you wrote this letter to the postmaster general a few weeks ago. What kind of response did you get from him?

CONNOLLY: The response we got was from the general counsel. And it was really a non-response response. It said we don't really - because these are operational efficiencies, we didn't need to go through either the Postal Board of Governors or the Postal Regulatory Commission to get their consent for these changes.

KING: They said we have the right to do this. They didn't address the concern.

CONNOLLY: That is correct.

KING: OK. Let me put this one to you. The Postal Service is dealing with real financial pressures. That's been the case for several years now. A spokesman has said they're trying to ensure financial stability. Now one way you can imagine them doing that is by eliminating overtime, for example. Isn't some of this - isn't it possible that some of this is a necessary reality?

CONNOLLY: Well, you know, there've been a number of inspector general reports. And what they've fingered is the need for new technology for cost efficiency and new, you know, efficiencies in how they operate. But they have not fingered inefficiencies in the workforce. As a matter of fact, they've talked about chronic work needs in terms of additional staffing. So I don't think that's really the problem. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the new postmaster general is a political pick. He's not a careerist. He has no background in postal issues. And he's installed in May, takes office in July just months before a critical election the president is losing. And we've had, directly from the president, his views of the Postal Service, which that it's too big and that all of their problems would go away if they just increased the price of packages. And that's sort of a shot at Amazon and Jeff Bezos. It's not true, but he repeats it.

KING: All right. Let me ask you in the 30 seconds we have left, we've got less than 100 days to go until this election. Offer me some solutions here. What do you want to see happen?

CONNOLLY: I want to see guarantees from the Postal Service that they are going to recognize mail-in ballots as a priority and have a system in place working with local governments and electoral boards to make sure all of that mail, mail-in ballots, is delivered in a timely way so that it will be counted.

KING: Congressman Gerry Connolly, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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