USPS Turmoil Splits GOP, With Some Calling For Reversal Of Controversial Policies

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 06: Republican candidate Dave Yost gives his victory speech after winning the Ohio Attorney General race on November 6, 2018 at the Ohio Republican Party's election night party at the Sheraton... COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 06: Republican candidate Dave Yost gives his victory speech after winning the Ohio Attorney General race on November 6, 2018 at the Ohio Republican Party's election night party at the Sheraton Capitol Square in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 17, 2020 5:58 p.m.

A growing number of Republican officials are expressing their concerns about how recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service could hamper vote by mail, with a Republican attorney general from a swing state the latest to call for the changes to be delayed until after the election.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose letter to President Trump was first reported by CBS, is one of several Republican officials who have raised concerns about the apparent delays in mail delivery due to new policies implemented by a Trump-aligned postmaster general.

GOP state election officials, like Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, have previously spoken publicly about their worries that the turmoil will affect their ability to keep the vote-by-mail process running smoothly.

The bipartisan leadership of the National Association of Secretaries of State requested a discussion with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and as of Friday, according to NPR, hadn’t gotten a response.

DeJoy has reportedly sought to eliminate overtime for postal workers, which could prove disastrous if they’re not allowed to work extra to handle the surge in mail-in ballots come November. The USPS has also shifted its messaging around how it will handle the delivery of mail ballots if election officials don’t pay extra to mail them first class. That’s prompted more questions about whether it was changing, under the new regime, its approach to prioritizing the shipment of ballots.

Amid this chaos, Trump said last week that he was opposed to additional USPS funding because he didn’t want to facilitate more vote-by-mail — a line he and the White House have since tried to walk back.

Scrutiny has grown around anecdotal reports of USPS drop boxes being removed from neighborhood streets and mail sorters being shut down in certain facilities.

Yost’s letter to the President signaled that he was generally supportive of the longstanding conservative quest to overhaul the postal service, which was facing tough financial conditions even before the pandemic. But Yost requested that such changes wait until after the election, so that “confidence” in elections won’t be eroded because of them.

“These changes so close to the election are certain to give rise to litigation, which in
turn will create a sense of chaos and uncertainty that will likely roll right into the
early voting period — thereby de-legitimizing the thousands of winners of the
November contests,” he wrote.

The letter also highlighted that military personnel serving abroad and elderly people who fear the health risks of COVID-19 are likely to cast absentee ballots.

He called for more transparency around what USPS was doing to improve its operations, and requested that Trump “consider demanding that the Board of Governors postpone changes until after the election to avoid slowing the mail or creating uneven levels of service across the country.”

(The U.S. Postal Service operates with more independence than other federal agencies. The Board of Governors is appointed by the President and the current board is made up entirely by Trump appointees. They, in turn, elevate a postmaster general, though Secretary Treasury Steve Mnuchin was reportedly involved in recruiting DeJoy, a GOP mega-donor, for the job.)

While Yost’s concerns focused on the election impacts of the new changes, other Republicans — and particularly those representing rural areas — have also sounded the alarm about what the delivery delays means for their constituents more broadly.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Steve Daines (R-MT) — who both face competitive elections this fall — issued letters calling on DeJoy to rethink the new policies.

But plenty of other Republicans are currently ducking the issue, even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she was bringing the House back from its August recess to vote on USPS legislation expected later this week. DeJoy will also testify in front of a House committee next Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) showed no interest in engaging in the debate over the postal service, telling reporters on Capitol Hill Monday that, “the Postal Service is going to be just fine.”

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted out pieces from the Washington Examiner and the Wall Street Journal that defended the U.S. Postal Service’s recent changes.

Read Yost’s letter below:

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