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DC delegate highlights effects of Postal Service quagmire on community

DC delegate highlights effects of Postal Service quagmire on community
© Bonnie Cash

Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tech execs testify on platforms' liability Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform | Facebook removes accounts linked to foreign influence efforts ahead of election | YouTube adding warnings to videos, searches on Election Day MORE (D), along with community leaders and representatives from Postal Service unions, on Thursday underscored the problems that Washingtonians have experienced because of the nationwide mail delays.

Norton and company spoke at a livestreamed press conference outside a post office in downtown D.C.

“We have heard from almost everyone except the men and women most directly affected by the crisis at the U.S. Postal Service," Holmes said in prepared remarks. "What has been missing from the discussion are the voices of the people on the front lines, our elected [advisory neighborhood commissioners], and most pointedly, our postal workers, who have shouldered the bulk of the burden the U.S. Postal Service is facing."

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She also rebuked Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyPoll: Nearly 70 percent say election a 'significant source of stress' John Legend warns against sending ballots through the mail at this point Postal Service ordered to reverse mail collection limitations MORE, whose controversial structural changes to the Postal Service have caused a litany of problems.

Over immense criticism from congressional lawmakers, DeJoy said this week that further changes to the Postal Service would not come until after November's election, but later acknowledged that the rollbacks already introduced wouldn't necessarily be restored.

“DeJoy has admitted that the harm done so far will be left in place, no replacement of sorting machines or of blue mailboxes that have been removed, and no promise for adequate overtime," Norton said.

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While she doesn't have the ability to participate in House floor votes, Holmes does sit on the chamber's Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service.

She has been one of the driving forces behind the Delivering for America Act, a measure that would give the nation's beleaguered mail service an additional $25 billion in funding.

DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan will testify before Holmes and the rest of the committee Monday. 

The congresswoman noted that she had received the most complaints about delayed or missing mail from D.C.'s 8th Ward, which is predominantly Black.

Ward 8, located west of the Anacostia River, is home to just over 10 percent of D.C.'s population. More than 90 percent of its residents are Black.

A Norton spokesperson told The Hill that 186 complaint cases submitted by Ward 8 residents to the USPS regarding delays of service remain open and unresolved. The rest of the District only has 69 unresolved complaints, by comparison.

Patricia Carmon and Salim Adofo, two of the ward's advisory neighborhood commissioners, elaborated on the problems their communities have had to deal with. Commissioners are locally elected officials in D.C., a unique feature of the District's Home Rule mandate. 

Carmon said her apartment complex recently went through a two-week period where no mail was delivered. When she went in person to her local post office she discovered a backlog of letters and packages for her that had been unable to be delivered because of understaffing.

Adofo said that delays could have a negative effect on voter morale in his community come November.

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"This compromises a lot of residents' faith that their vote will be counted. We live in a community where many people do not believe that their vote counts, and if their votes will never make it to the Board of Elections, that only validates that myth that their vote doesn't count," Adofo said.

The Washington Post reported that the Postal Service notified 46 states that it won't be able to process all of the mail-in ballots for Election Day because of its decreased capacity. A huge influx of mail-in ballots are expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of this reduced capability stems from DeJoy decommissioning hundreds of letter sorting machines as part of his changes. The machines are an integral part of the Postal Service's operations, as one machine can sort 35,000 pieces of mail per hour.

Roy Robinson, president of Branch 142 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, confirmed at the press conference that numerous letter sorting machines had been removed from the area, saying that DeJoy explained it as a cost-cutting measure. Normally, Robinson said, the machines are only removed when a new one is introduced, adding that the DeJoy's changes "makes no sense."

When asked about the removal of the machines from the region, a Postal Service spokesperson referred The Hill back to a statement DeJoy made Tuesday, in which the postal chief vowed, "The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall."

—Updated at 5:25 p.m.