That’s the highest number of machines removed since 2016, according to written court testimony. Before then, the average was 388 withdrawn per year.
According to written court testimony submitted this week, U.S. Postal Service administrators confessed to removing 711 mail-sorting machines, the most withdrawn from USPS facilities since 2016.
In the four years prior, 388 machines was the average number of sorters removed, CNN maintained.
The Postal Service reportedly began removing machines in June, the same month former Republican fundraiser Louis DeJoy began serving as postmaster general after being named to the position the previous month by President Donald Trump.
The USPS’ Jason DeChambeau contended in court documents that the decision to remove mail-sorting machines was made before the appointment of DeJoy, the first postmaster general in decades with no prior experience with the Postal Service.
Representatives of the agency were required to appear in U.S. District Court because six states and the District of Columbia filed a suit against the USPS and its head. Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. joined together to argue that DeJoy’s changes to the postal system are interfering with the legal obligation “to conduct free and fair elections.”
Read More: Postal chief DeJoy has long leveraged connections, dollars
“Over the past several weeks, we have heard from people in every county across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who are gravely concerned about delayed mail delivery… We call on you to immediately return to service machines that have been removed in recent months,” they wrote.
On Aug. 18, DeJoy announced that the Postal Service would suspend operational changes until after the election.
Despite the proven benefits of social distancing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Trump has discouraged Americans to vote by mail, claiming an increased number of mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.
Read More: Defiant DeJoy confirms he won’t restore mail-sorting machines
There is widespread fear that DeJoy’s internal alterations could compound voter suppression and disrupt the upcoming presidential election, but according to the officials, these changes are “common practice” because annual maintenance is needed to replace or remove outdated mail equipment.
As Americans gear up for the 2020 presidential election, the states suing the Postal Service are claiming the changes happening within the system are “designed to undermine” democracy.
Read More: Trump to resign, request pardon if he loses election: Cohen
When this lawsuit was announced on Aug. 21, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked DeJoy to specify how the agency will reverse these “illegal changes.”
“Pres Trump and Postmaster DeJoy might say they’re backing down but, in CA, we’re not going to take their word for it,” Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, wrote on Twitter.
NEWS: We’ve officially filed our lawsuit to protect the #USPS.
Pres Trump and Postmaster DeJoy might say they’re backing down but, in CA, we’re not going to take their word for it.
Free and fair elections are too important to leave to an empty promise. https://t.co/72RM0SB6xO pic.twitter.com/PEQXvUrray
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) August 21, 2020
Postal Service representatives have said mail is piling up, and animal carcasses are being found inside unutilized mail processing plants. Senate reports claim “significant delays” in mail delivery have prevented Americans from receiving medicine, checks, packages and more.
“We know that Louis DeJoy is sabotaging the Postal Service, and our report is more evidence that his tenure has been a failure,” Massachusetts’ Democratic Sen, Elizabeth Warren, said in a statement.
“He needs to resign,” she continuted, “and if he won’t, the Board of Governors must remove him.”
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