(Mail is scanned as it travels along a conveyor belt Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, at the USPS sorting facility in Scarborough, Maine. Photo by Joel Page/Portland Portland Press Herald, via Getty Images.)
Trump’s newly appointed Postmaster General is now removing a substantial number of mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given. Postal workers and union officials have confirmed to Motherboard that these machines — the same machines that will be responsible for sorting ballots, will be removed. This action directly contradicts the previous promises made by DeJoy that the USPS has “ample capacity” to handle the predicted surge in mail-in ballots, because he is creating this new lack of capacity.
Through their post office employee sources, Motherboard has identified 19 mail sorting machines from five processing facilities across the U.S. that either have already been removed or are scheduled to be removed shortly. The Postal Service operates hundreds of distribution facilities within the United States, so we can not be precise in gleaning exactly how many machines have or will be removed and how many total facilities will be diminished. It is also not clear exactly why machines are being removed and what the legitimate purpose is for the adjustments.
(US Postal Service workers scan parcels at the Los Angeles Processing and Distribution Center on December 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by David McNew, via Getty Images.)
Given that only a few workers have confirmed that these machines are being removed, it is also possible that this is a more wide-spread tactic being deployed by DeJoy in an attempt to hinder people from casting their ballots by mail.
The postal workers who spoke to Motherboard confirmed that machines are occasionally removed, replaced, or modified, but that the most recent instances of machine removal appear to be more “widespread.” The workers say that “a larger number of machines at their respective facility” have been noticeably taken out, and they are concerned about the potential impact this will have on the entire facility’s ability to quickly process large numbers of mail, which includes ballots.
A postal employee at a Buffalo distribution facility told Motherboard: “Look at it this way: Your local grocery store was forced to cut one third of its cash-out lines, but management expected the same productivity, quality, and speed for the customer — It’s just never going to happen.” This same employee also confirmed that they anticipate losing six out of 21 sorting machines at their facility alone.
(Video of what a mail sorting facility in Bethlehem, PA, looks like at Christmastime in 2017.)
What is the explanation from USPS about why all of this is happening leading up to a major election with issues involving speed and delivery? Routine maintenance is their answer. But this seems unlikely given the extreme financial duress the agency is under and the recent attempts to cut costs. David Partenheimer, spokesperson from USPS told Motherboard:
“The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes. Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost effective operations and better service for our customers.”
These explanations could be legitimate, but considering all of the recent changes by DeJoy at the USPS that are counterintuitive to productivity and Trump’s plainly stated refusal to assist the postal service with critical stimulus funding (see video below), all of these actions appear suspect. Add to that Trump’s previous actions to thwart mail-in voting across the country, ongoing attempts by Republicans to disenfranchise voters across the country and the reality that mailed ballots will heavily favor Biden, and you have an extremely viable concern about the safety of our next national election.
For more in this series meant to protect the US Postal Service and the November vote, please see my previous articles, in descending order, here:
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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