U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday suspended all mail service changes until after the November election, bowing to an outcry by Democrats that the moves appeared to be an attempt to boost President Donald Trump’s re-election chances.
The reversal follows charges by Democrats and others that service cuts could slow the handling of mail-in ballots, the use of which is expected to skyrocket for the election as the coronavirus pandemic raises fears of crowds.
These critics have accused the Republican president of trying to hobble the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement, adding that the changes are to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
DeJoy, a major political donor and ally of Trump, assumed the job in June.
Trump kept up his attack on mail-in voting on Tuesday, speculating that delayed results could mean that the Nov. 3 election would need to be held a second time.
“It will end up being a rigged election or they will never come out with an outcome,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “They’ll have to do it again, and nobody wants that.”
One in four ballots in 2016 were cast by mail and Trump himself votes that way.
No mailboxes removed, facilities closed
In his statement, DeJoy also said that the USPS will not change retail hours at post offices, and that mail collection boxes will remain where they are and no mail processing facilities will be closed.
The reversal followed a lengthy call by the postal board of governors on Monday night, two people briefed on the matter said.
Trump said last week he was against Democratic efforts to include funds for the USPS and election infrastructure in coronavirus relief legislation because he wanted to limit mail-in voting during the pandemic.
Earlier on Tuesday, states including Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York said they were planning legal moves to block the cuts.
“The integrity of our elections is fundamental to our nation’s democracy, and we won’t allow anyone to undermine them, not even the president of the United States,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro cautiously welcomed DeJoy’s proposed actions.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Shapiro said. “Hopefully the American people can breathe a sigh of relief. But I will not let my foot off the gas so long as the postal officials continue to violate the law.”
Suing Trump and DeJoy
Several individuals, including candidates for public office, sued Trump and DeJoy in New York on Aug. 17 to ensure adequate funding for postal operations. The lawsuit was in response to comments the president has made and actions taken by DeJoy to change operations at post offices nationwide.
Democrats have raised concerns that Postal Service cost cutting could lead to missed or delayed ballots. They have pointed to reductions in overtime, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips and new mail sorting and delivery policies as changes that threaten to slow mail delivery — and in some cases, already have.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said she would go ahead with plans to pass a bill that would prevent the post office from reducing service levels below what they were in January.
DeJoy is scheduled to testify on Friday before the Republican-led Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee, spokespersons for the committee and the USPS said. DeJoy, a major political donor and ally of Trump, assumed the job in June.
DeJoy also is scheduled to testify on Monday before the Democratic-led House of Representatives oversight and reform committee.
Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union that represents more than 200,000 employees, told Fox News that DeJoy’s policy changes “are truly slowing down mail. The customers see it.… The postal workers see it — mail is getting all backed up.”