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House Oversight panel requests testimony from postmaster general amid mail delays

Vanita Gupta says U.S. to "gear up" for surge in mail-in ballots
Vanita Gupta says U.S. to "gear up" for surge in mail-in ballots this election 05:28

Washington — The House Oversight and Reform Committee is requesting the postmaster general appear before the Democrat-led panel to discuss changes to the U.S. Postal Service that have caused delays in mail delivery, an issue taking on heightened importance as states expand vote-by-mail for the November election.

The committee, led by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, plans to hold the hearing with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on September 17. The hearing is focused on "recent changes to U.S. Postal Service operations and standards and the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election."

Maloney and three other Democrats on the Oversight Committee sought information about the changes in July and warned they could have "negative impacts on service standards and cause significant delays in mail delivery." Among the operational shifts within the Postal Service outlined in documents made public are eliminating overtime and restricting certain letter carrier activities, as well as limiting extra trips to deliver mail.

"While these changes in a normal year would be drastic, in a presidential election year when many states are relying heavily on absentee mail-in ballots, increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner — an unacceptable outcome for a free and fair election," the group of Democrats wrote in a letter to DeJoy, a Republican donor, last month.

But the Postal Service told the committee that neither of the two documents they identified came from Postal Service Headquarters and "should not be treated as official statements of Postal Service policy." Thomas Marshall, the Postal Service's general counsel, said in a letter to lawmakers that its management is working on a business plan to ensure its financial stability and is taking steps to "increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing operational standards."

Marshall said that in anticipation of the November election, the Postal Service is working with election officials to prepare.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many states are expanding vote-by-mail options for November in an effort to allow residents to participate in the general election safely. But the efforts are expected to lead to a surge in mail-in ballots, straining the Postal Service and raising concerns as to whether ballots will be delivered on time.

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