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Newsom Criticizes 'Weaponization' Of U.S. Postal System By Feds

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday criticized what he described as the "sabotage" of U.S. Postal delivery by the federal government, accusing the Trump administration of weaponizing the postal system.

Newsom was asked about recent issues that had arisen with the U.S. Postal Service due to controversial new policies imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, including eliminating overtime and slowing some mail delivery. 

Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have sounded alarms over disruptive changes instituted by DeJoy this summer. Democrats claim he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election -- a charge he denies.

Newsom pointed out that the issues were impacting more than just voting by mail.

"Let me just address the issue as it relates to some of the sabotage that's clearly intentionally being done to our postal delivery here in this country. It's going to impact not just elections. It's going to impact your ability to get quality care in terms of your prescriptions, your ability to get information, to be able to correspond with loved ones and the like," Newsom said. "Vulnerable populations are disproportionately being impacted because of their utilization of our postal system.  I haven't experienced this in my lifetime -- I don't know that any of us have -- the weaponization of sorts of our postal system."

Newsom said that the federal government needed to answer to the recent charges. 

"I am not a member of the federal government. I am, however, a federal taxpayer and I demand and expect more of our country, and that first needs to be called out," explained Newsom. "I am not alone in calling that out and I don't know that this, by any stretch, is even a partisan issue." 

As to how the operation of the postal service relates to what the state can do, Newsom brought up two executive orders he had signed months ago regarding mail-in ballots.

"Mail-in ballots are well known and well utilized here in the state of California. Increasing numbers in every election of people using absentee ballots -- which are mail-in ballots -- very effectively and very safely. The numbers increase every single year," said the governor.

Newsom also noted that not everyone wants to vote via mail-in ballot, with many preferring as he does to have the in-person experience of voting. He said that one of the executive orders he signed would provide for access points to drop off ballots that voters filled out at home. Those executive orders have since been codified with legislation.

The governor also said that the state has a provision that allows 17 days for registrars to collect and certify ballots once they are postmarked. 

"We thought that was important with all the uncertainty of COVID. We didn't realize how prescient that now appears to have been with what has happened that I would almost describe as vandalism of our postal system," said Newsom.

The governor went on to say that he hoped the issues were temporary and that cooler heads would prevail with Congress working out the issues President Trump has with mail-in ballots.

Earlier Friday, the US Postal Service warned California and other states that voters risk not getting their ballots back to election offices in time because of lags in mail delivery, according to letters reviewed by CNN.

The letters added a new level of uncertainty to the coming presidential election and leaving states to ascertain how to adjust.

Multiple states received communications from the USPS general counsel outlining standard mail delivery times and prices leading up to the November election. The memos also warned secretaries of state that election laws established by the states would not necessarily guarantee that mail-in ballots arrive in time to be counted.

CNN obtained letters sent to Washington, Pennsylvania, California and North Carolina. The Utah lieutenant governor's office also confirmed to CNN that it received a letter at the end of July. The Washington Post reported 46 states and Washington, DC, all received similar warnings.

"Certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots, particularly with respect to new residents who register to vote shortly before Election Day, appear to be incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall wrote to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. "This mismatch creates a significant risk that some ballots will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them."

The letters list standard mail delivery times and prices for first class and marketing mail, the two types of mail USPS sends. Many states use the nonprofit marketing mail rate to send election mail, including absentee and mail-in ballots and ballot applications to voters.

The letters state that election mail must be sent from voters by first class mail, which is more expensive than the nonprofit marketing rate.

"State or local election officials may generally use either First-Class Mail or Marketing Mail to mail blank ballots to voters," the letters state.

First class mail takes between two and five days to be received, while marketing mail takes between three and 10 days to be received, according to USPS. That, according to Pennsylvania's secretary of commonwealth, is a longer a delivery time than what was factored in for the primaries in June, according to a filing in a related court case.

The slower delivery is, according to the court filing, a likely outcome of recent changes put in place by the post office that have been criticized for putting at risk the ability to conduct vote by mail across the country. As a result, Pennsylvania said it is willing to extend its deadline to receive ballots to up to three days after the election, provided they are mailed by Election Day.

While the letter states USPS is not recommending changing election laws in these states, it says it is simply reminding the states that USPS cannot adjust its delivery standards for state election laws.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. CNN contributed to this report.

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