MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Questions continue to pile up for the head of the United States Postal Service (USPS), along with growing concerns about the integrity of the November election.
With millions of Americans expected to vote by mail this year because of COVID-19, the U.S. House Oversight Committee is calling on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify in an emergency hearing about ongoing mail delays and possible problems delivering mail-in ballots on time.
Meanwhile, the Shelby County Election Commission is reminding voters that mail-in ballots must be sent through the postal service, FedEx or UPS. Ballots cannot be hand-delivered or placed in a drop box, the commission said.
At the same time, private carriers like FedEx don’t appear interested in stepping in to take on the extra load that’s likely to slow down the Postal Service ahead of the election.
The Postal Service has warned election officials, including in the Mid-South, about a potential problem this November.
WMC Action News 5 obtained copies of letters USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall sent to the top election officials in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
In his letter to Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Marshall said the state’s election laws appear to be “incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”
He added that "there is significant risk" some ballots mailed during the last few days before the election may not arrive in time to be counted.
“If a voter submits a request at or near that deadline, and the ballot is transmitted to the voter by mail, there is a significant risk that the voters will not have sufficient time to complete and mail the completed ballot back to the election official in time for it to arrive by the state’s return deadline,” Marshall wrote.
Letters to officials in Arkansas and Mississippi outlined similar concerns.
An analysis from the Washington Post shows mail sorting capacity has been reduced in several cities, including Memphis.
Critics accuse DeJoy, a top Republican campaign donor, of removing the machines to deliberately slow down the mail to help President Trump win in November.
Trump has been both a vocal critic and participant of mail-in voting.
On Saturday, President Trump called DeJoy “a fantastic man” who “wants to make the Post Office great again.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that the sorting machines were decommissioned because of a 2006 law.
But he said no more machines will be removed until after the election.
“No more sorting machines are going offline between now and the election. That’s, something that my Democrat friends are trying to do to stoke fear out there,” said Meadows. “That’s not happening.”
But some lawmakers are demanding more answers.
“I’m demanding that the Senate hold hearings and call Mr. DeJoy and the head of the postal commission before them this week,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate.
The House Oversight Committee invited the Postmaster General to testify Aug. 24.
“As you know, my staff first requested your testimony several weeks ago, and you indicated that the first available date you could appear was September 17, 2020. However, over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” wrote Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee. “Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”
DeJoy told the USPS Board of Governor recently that USPS continues to experience deep financial problems, which have been growing for years.
“Our financial position is dire, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, a broken business model and a management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues,” said DeJoy. “As a result, the Postal Service has experienced over a decade of financial losses, with FY 2019 approaching $9 billion and 2020 closing in on $11 billion in losses. Without dramatic change, there is no end in sight, and we face an impending liquidity crisis.”
As problems pile up for the Postal Service, private carriers like FedEx have signaled they have no plans to step in to take on the responsibility of delivering ballots this November.
“U.S. election absentee and mail-in ballots are predominantly handled by the U.S. Postal Service,” said Sederia Gray, a FedEx spokesperson.” FedEx does accept individual ballots for shipment, and we advise that customers planning to return their ballots via FedEx should closely review their state’s guidelines on absentee voting and deadlines for ballots or related election documents. "