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Dozens of mail boxes sit in the parking lot of a post office on Lafayette Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York City on August 17, 2020 . Mayor Bill De Blasio has called for an investigation after receiving reports of mailboxes being removed throughout the city. (Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Still 'Miles to Go' to Ensure a Safe and Fair Election, Rights Groups Say After DeJoy Announces Suspension of Changes to Mail Operations

"Nice try," said Rep. David Cicilline. "You also need to reverse the damage you've already done."

Julia Conley

Civil rights advocates vowed to continue fighting to thwart any attempt by the Trump administration to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service and the 2020 general election on Tuesday, after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would "suspend" changes to post office operations until after the November election.

Following reports that mail sorting machines have been decommissioned at post offices and mail collection boxes have been removed from street corners around the country, DeJoy said the changes would be halted for the time being to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail." 

The changes have already led to reports of widespread mail delays and fears that millions of people will be disenfranchised in the November general election as many voters—particularly Democrats—plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to DeJoy's statement, post office hours will remain the same and no mail processing facilities will be closed over the next three months, while a Postal Service task force on election mail will be expanded to include postal workers' unions.

Voting rights advocates applauded the work of activists and Democratic lawmakers over the last several days as Democrats in Congress have pressured DeJoy to testify and a group of voters and candidates from across the country filed a lawsuit Monday over the Trump administration's "assault" on the U.S. Postal Service.  

"Organizing works," tweeted Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, adding that there are still "miles to go" to ensure a fair election in November. 

Other advocates focused mainly on what was missing from DeJoy's statement—any assurance that the postmaster general will reverse the changes already made to the postal service.

"DeJoy ordered USPS to remove 671 mail sorting machines by end of September, including 24 in Ohio, 11 in Detroit, 11 in Florida, nine in Wisconsin, eight in Philadelphia and five in Arizona," tweeted "Give Us the Ballot" author Ari Berman. "Will removed mail equipment be restored? DeJoy doesn't say in [the] letter and we need answers."

Berman's call was echoed by Democratic lawmakers and other critics.

Without a commitment to reinstating the mailboxes and sorting machines that have been taken out of commission already, tweeted one skeptic, DeJoy's statement is akin to a promise "not to rob any banks other than the ones I've already robbed."

"For now," wrote Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, DeJoy's statement is "just words on paper."

The statement from DeJoy came shortly after reports that at least 20 states plan to sue the postmaster general to force himt o reverse the changes made to mail services. 

"We will be taking action to reinstate Postal Service standards that all Americans depend on, whether it's for delivering their prescription drugs or for carrying their very right to vote," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement. "Recent post office changes have been implemented recklessly, before checking the law, and we will use our authority to stop them and help ensure that every eligible ballot is counted."

DeJoy is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee this Friday and a House committee on Monday. The progressive coalition Democracy Initiative said Tuesday that the hearings would provide an opportunity for lawmakers to determine how meaningful the postmaster general's decision to "suspend" changes to Postal Service operations really is. 

"We need to hear immediately from President Trump and Postmaster General DeJoy. Be specific: What service cuts are you suspending? What equipment will be restored to service, and in which locations? What is the plan to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service fully embraces the historic demand to vote by mail and ensure that every vote is counted?" said Wendy Fields, executive director of the coalition. 

"We expect to hear and see that plan, and nothing less, when the postmaster general testifies before Congress," she added.


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