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Delaware Headlines

Delaware Attorney General sues USPS over changes

Delaware’s Attorney General announced she is suing the U.S. Postal Service to stop changes she says may suppress the vote this fall. 

The suit Delaware and several other states are filing alleges the Postal Service skipped a regulatory step in instituting recent changes to employee overtime and equipment and is infringing on Americans' constitutionally guaranteed right to vote

Jennings announced the suit alongside Delaware’s congressional delegation at a post office in Wilmington Tuesday. 

“Amid a pandemic, millions of Americans will use the mail to make their voices heard in November,” said Jennings. “This is not just a crisis, it is a sabotage on the most fundamental right we have.”

The announcement comes after reports from the local postal union that mail delivery has already been delayed in Delaware due to removal of sorting machines from Delaware’s sole processing center in New Castle and new policies limiting employee overtime and transportation runs. 

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Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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The Delaware Processing and Distribution Center in New Castle

Just before Jennings announced her suit Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a statement promising to suspend the nationwide changes until after the election. 

He said retail hours at post offices will not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain “where they are,” no mail processing facilities will be closed and overtime “has, and will continue to be” approved as needed.

Wilmington-area American Postal Workers Union Local 152 President Trina Wynn says as of Tuesday afternoon, she had not noticed any of the changes reversed. 

“[With] mail-in ballots, we know the volume is going to be there,” said Wynn. “So we need the machines to be reinstated, put back in the processing plant, so that we can do what we’ve been taught to do our whole postal career. ”

It’s not clear from DeJoy’s statement whether equipment that’s already been removed will be replaced. 

Delaware’s Congressional delegation says action is still necessary on Capitol Hill to hold DeJoy to his word. They have expressed concern the changes could disenfranchise Delawareans, who can vote by mail without excuse during the November general election and the state primary that’s less than a month away. 

 

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester says despite DeJoy’s announcement, she still plans to vote for the Delivering for America Act, which would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020.

“We’re not going to let our foot off the gas,” said Blunt Rochester. “Because we have to make sure that not only are these promises kept, but that we return the boxes, the equipment, all of those things.” 

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t go backwards,” she added.

A local USPS spokesperson declined to comment Monday on whether machines were being removed in Delaware — but said the Postal Service is committed to delivering election mail in a timely manner.

Postal Service officials say voters must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed mail-in ballots. The Postal Service “strongly recommends” jurisdictions advise voters to request ballots no later than 15 days prior to the election date and mail ballots back at least one week before the due date. 

The Delaware Department of Elections can mail vote-by-mail ballots to voters as late as four days before the state primary and general elections. The Department is recommending on its website that voters return their completed vote-by-mail applications as soon as possible, “ideally no later than one week prior to the election, but in any event be sure to return your completed VBM application to the Department by those deadlines.”

The Department of Elections does not offer a recommendation on when to mail ballots back to elections officials by. Completed vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the county elections office that issued them by the time polls close on election day. 

NPR reports some states are looking to change rules around receiving mail-in ballots, so that late ballots can still be counted as long as they are postmarked by election day. 

Neither Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony Albence nor a spokesperson for Gov. John Carney responded to requests for comment. 

This story has been updated. 

 

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