As concerns mount over mail delays during an election year where many people are expected to vote by mail due to Covid-19, U.S. Representatives Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor are calling for legislation to protect the United States Postal Service.
Crist and Castor, along with leaders from the National Letter Carriers Association, the Florida Rural Letter Carriers Association and the Tampa Area Local 259 American Postal Workers Union, spoke outside the St. Petersburg Open Air Post Office Tuesday morning in support of the USPS.
“Maybe never in the history of our country has the post office been so important,” Crist said. “I believe this is outrageous for the administration to stand in the way of the delivery of the mail to the people of America.”
New procedures for the postal service were laid out in June under the leadership of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a longtime supporter and donor to President Donald Trump. They included hours being cut and overtime no longer being authorized or accepted in an attempt to save the USPS around $200 million. There have also been reports that letter-sorting machines are being deactivated and mailboxes are being removed, although Michael Searle, president of the Tampa Area Local 259 American Postal Workers Union, said neither of those things have happened locally.
Crist said it is “unbelievable” that the administration would interfere with the operations of the USPS as it would impact seniors who rely on mail delivery to get prescriptions and could also prevent troops serving overseas from having the opportunity to vote. Crist added that it’s “unconscionable” that people might not have a safe way to vote during a pandemic.
Trump has been a vocal critic of the USPS and mail-in ballots, which he claims will result in massive voter fraud. In turn, Democrats have accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage the mail service as an unprecedented number of people will cast their ballots by mail in 2020.
“We are in the midst of a global health crisis,” Castor said. “It’s vitally important that we have a strong and secure United States Postal Service.”
She said Trump is “scared” because he’s behind in the polls and that he’s “stoking fear” in vote by mail.
“When he does that, he undermines our democracy and strikes right at the heart of who we are as Americans,” she said. “I’m afraid if this continues, he will successfully disenfranchise many Americans.”
Castor said she will be taking immediate legislative action to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“Today in the U.S. House of Representatives, we’re going to introduce a bill that will prohibit them from removing mailboxes during this global health crisis, prevent them from removing sorting machines and ensure that we guarantee the current postal standards,” she said. “And we’re going to make sure vote by mail ballots have a first-class stamp on them so there’s no delay in having your voice heard.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back into session on Saturday due to the USPS crisis.
Alan Pollard Jr, a letter carrier who has worked for the postal service since 2003, came to hear Tuesday’s announcement on his day off. He said it’s hard for him to see the job he cares deeply about and has helped him support his family be turned into a political football.
“What people need to know is that we serve everyone,” he said. “Not just Democrats. Not just Republicans. It doesn’t matter who you vote for. We’ll deliver your ballots no matter what.”