Vote by mail: US reps visit USPS Chicago HQ amid mail concerns, DeJoy says cost-cutting changes suspended until after election

Postal Service will suspend cost-cutting changes until after election, DeJoy says

ByLeah Hope, Diane Pathieu, and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
US reps visit USPS Chicago HQ amid mail voting, delay concerns
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U.S. representatives from Illinois are visited United States Postal Service Chicago Headquarters Tuesday amid ongoing concerns about mail-in ballots.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- U.S. representatives from Illinois visited the United States Postal Service Chicago Headquarters Tuesday amid ongoing concerns about mail delays and impacts on the 2020 presidential election, which will rely more heavily on mail-in voting than every before.

Representatives Jesús "Chuy" García, Mike Quigley, Sean Casten, Danny Davis, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Bill Foster were present at a press conference at the USPS Headquarters.

"This will, folks, be the year for mail in ballots for elections, more than ever in our history," Quigley said.

After weeks of complaints about USPS deliveries and, most recently, concern about the impact on the 2020 general election, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he was rolling back the changes he had made, saying, "Retail hours at Post Offices will not change. Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are. No mail processing facilities will be closed. And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed."

"Let's be really clear on what that means," said Rep. Sean Casten (D IL-6). "It means that he was lying when he said he had to do this. And why did it take this attention to get us to do that?"

"We have also seen significant service delays today. So, delaying any additional changes until after the election, while helpful, is not sufficient. We need to return to normal operations until after the pandemic," said Rep. Lauren Underwood (D IL-14)

Tuesday DeJoy announced that his office would suspend cost-cutting measures until after the November election.

RELATED: Any USPS cuts will wait until after the election, postmaster general says

"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election," DeJoy said in a statement. "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. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."

RELATED: Vote by mail: IL mail-in ballot concerns arise for November election amid USPS issues

Illinois Republican US Congressman Adam Kinzinger has also expressed concerns about the U.S. Postal Service.

Election officials are expecting a surge in mail-in ballots because of the pandemic.

"The President has been clear, that this the attempt to discredit the postal service and make people unwilling to vote by mail but we will not be defeated," Schakowsky said.

But the postal service has warned 46 states those ballots might not arrive in time to be counted. President Trump has said the postmaster general's changes are meant to "fix" the postal service.

Last week President Trump said he would block a Democratic proposal to give the postal service more funding. At the same time, he acknowledged that funding was needed to process mail-in ballots.

The president has repeatedly claimed mail-in ballots will lead to a rigged election. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud linked to voting by mail.

President Trump has also voted by mail in past elections, including 2016, and requested a vote by mail ballot to vote in Florida for the 2020 election.

The state elections board is forecasting at least one in eight votes for the November 3 general election to come in through the post office. But they add that now is the time to request your mail-in ballot.

RELATED: Lawmakers to speak out about Postal Service crisis

Ballots are expected to be mailed to those requesting them starting September 24.

However, earlier this summer the post office told election officials their operating standards won't necessarily meet Illinois laws governing how much time a voter is supposed to have to request and then mail in their vote. As a result, Chicago election officials say October 13 is the latest you should request a mail-in ballot.

Early in-person voting will also begin the following day.

If you're in doubt of getting your ballot submitted in time, they said you will also have the option to drop it off at a polling station.

"They will have to put it in our secure envelopes, sign and date the envelope [and] there will be a board person there who will date and time stamp the envelope and make sure you signed it and dated it and will drop it in the secure drop box," said Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez.

So far, the state says 700,000 applications for mail-in ballots have already been received, with a quarter-million of those from Chicago alone. To put that in perspective, the 2018 mid-terms had 430,000 total mail-in ballot requests statewide, which was a record.