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USPS removing mail sorting machines is latest change ahead of election

  • The United States Postal Service is deactivating mail-sorting machines at processing centers across the US.
  • At least 19 sorting machines — which can process 35,000 pieces of mail per hour — have been dismantled and removed in recent weeks, Motherboard earlier reported.
  • The Iowa Postal Workers Union also voiced concerns that sorting machines are being dismantled last week in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor who has implemented sweeping changes to the USPS since taking office earlier this summer.
  • Mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause a surge in mail volume ahead of the 2020 election. Trump has explicitly said that he wants to withhold funding from the post office to sabotage mail-in voting.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

United States Postal Service workers say mail sorting machines are being taken apart and removed from distribution  facilities across the US, raising concerns about their capacity to handle a surge in mail-in ballots in the upcoming general election.

At least 19 mail-sorting machines, which can process up to 35,000 pieces of mail per hour, have been removed without any explanation given, postal workers told Motherboard.  The USPS did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

This is the latest in a series of sweeping changes that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor, has made to the agency since taking office earlier this summer. Postal workers and elected officials have said that the changes dismantle the US Postal Service and could have devastating effects for the upcoming election, where many are expected to vote by mail due to the ongoing pandemic.

Kimberly Karol, president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union, confirmed that machines were being removed, voicing concerns in an interview with NPR that DeJoy’s policies were “now affecting the way that we do business and not allowing us to deliver every piece every day.”

In a letter sent to DeJoy last week, Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said that the removal of mail-sorting machines and other cost-cutting measures “threaten the timely delivery of mail,” including absentee ballots.

In a statement to Business Insider, USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer said the notion that mail sorting machines are being deactivated to sabotage mail-in voting is “erroneous.”

“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,” Partenheimer said.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the USPS and its potential role in the 2020 election, smearing mail-in voting as inherently fraudulent despite evidence that the rate of fraud is extremely low and mail-in voting doesn’t help or hurt one political party over the other. On Thursday, Trump told Fox Business that he wants to withhold funding from the USPS in order to harm mail-in voting.

“They want $25 billion — billion — for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

Meanwhile, DeJoy — a major Trump donor — has overseen major changes at the USPS, slashing its budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic and freezing hiring.

Postal workers told Motherboard that it isn’t inherently unusual for mail-sorting machines to be deactivated or moved between different facilities, but noted that the timing coincides with Trump’s push to destabilize the USPS in advance of the election. 

“When you take out one of the machines, it takes away our ability to respond to unforeseen things that may happen,” Karol, the Iowa postal union president, told Motherboard.

But experts said Trump’s assertion that the USPS won’t be able to process mail-in voting without a larger budget is faulty. Amber McReynolds, the former director of the Denver Elections Division and the CEO of the National Vote At Home Institute, told Business Insider in April that mail-in elections shouldn’t be an inherent strain on the service.

“The Postal Services estimates they process about 140 billion pieces of mail a year. And when we talk about 250 million mail ballots for, say, every American, that’s only about 0.2% of their normal volume,” she said.

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