Watchdog calls for probe amid fears of 'voter suppression tactics' through Postal Service

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A watchdog organization is calling for an investigation and hearings amid concerns about mail-in ballot “voter suppression tactics” by the Trump administration through the United States Postal Service.

“Recent actions” taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by Donald Trump in May, “will delay prioritizing mail delivery,” which threatens voting by mail, warned a letter Thursday from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to surge across the nation as voters seek to avoid the risk of catching COVID-19 at the polls. Yet DeJoy is slashing overtime for mail carriers and prohibiting employees from making late delivery trips, which will slow the mail, he revealed in an internal memo. DeJoy, who has no experience in the agency, is a prominent Trump donor and the former lead fundraiser for the Republican National Convention.

“We have an underfunded state and local election system and a deliberate slowdown in the Postal Service,” Wendy Fields, the executive director of the Democracy Initiative, told The New York Times. Trump is “deliberately orchestrating suppression and using the post office as a tool to do it,” she said.

Former Democratic leader of the Georgia House and Democratic vice presidential hopeful Stacy Abrams also accused Trump on Sunday of attempting to “steal” the election by manipulating the postal service along with his partisan postmaster general. 

After significant delays by the USPS in delivering absentee ballots to voters in Wisconsin’s April primary, a probe by the USPS Office of Inspector General determined that the agency needed to “strengthen adherence to procedures” and “improve communication and coordination” with election offices.

CREW’s letter, which was also signed by Common Cause Wisconsin, calls on Johnson’s Senate committee to determine whether USPS is proactively addressing the “increased national demand for voting by mail” this November. The committee must also determine how cutting back on overtime and extended deliveries by the USPS will impact voting by mail, the letter states. 

Trump has railed about “fraudulent” mail-in ballots, without any basis. He called the upcoming election “fixed” and “rigged,” and the “greatest election disaster in history” — even though the election hasn’t yet occurred.

The system is so suspect, he claimed, that Trump floated the idea of delaying the election in a tweet last Thursday. Trump has no power to do so.

Bizarrely, he urged Americans on Friday to vote via “absentee” ballot, which is a mailed-in vote. Most jurisdictions’ “vote by mail” systems have identical requirements for all voters. 

“It’s actually a great thing, absentee ballots. I’m going to be voting absentee,” Trump told reporters. He noted voters have to “go through a process to get” absentee ballots. Voters have to go through a process for any mail-in ballots.

Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee, later responded in an interview: “The president was like, ‘Well, I love absentee balloting, just [not] this mail-by-vote thing.’ Mr. President, they’re the same thing, OK? Just so you understand: An absentee ballot is the same as a mail-in ballot.”

Critics have charged that Trump is already worried that he’ll lose the election, so he’s strategizing to discredit and even sabotage mail-in votes so he can claim that his defeat was “rigged.”

“Mark my words, I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said back in April. 

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Sunday said he believes Trump won’t leave the White House if he loses the election, and warned the president might invoke some kind of “emergency” action to remain.

Trump’s proposal to delay the U.S. election has infuriated Democrats and has not been supported by Republicans.

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