WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Facing public pressure and state lawsuits, the postmaster general announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics warned were causing widespread delays and could disrupt voting in the November election.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would “suspend” his initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
The abrupt reversal comes as more than 20 states announced they would be suing to stop the changes. The states, along with lawmakers and others, want to ensure voters are able to use mail-in ballots if they prefer to avoid polling places due to health risks from COVID-19.
“The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives,” DeJoy said in a statement.
He said retail hours at post offices will not change and that mail-processing equipment and boxes will remain. No facilities will be closed, and overtime will be approved “as needed.”
DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser who took control of the agency in June, said the Postal Service will “engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.”
The move comes ahead of DeJoy’s scheduled appearance before the Senate on Friday. The postal chief is expected to testify on mail delivery delays and service changes.
DeJoy and the head of the Postal Service board of governors are also set to testify in the House Monday.
Congress is not in session but Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the House back to Washington to vote on legislation to protect the Postal Service.
Full statement from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy:
“The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country. There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge.
I want to make a few things clear:
The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.
I am announcing today the expansion of our current leadership taskforce on election mail to enhance our ongoing work and partnership with state and local election officials in jurisdictions throughout the country. Leaders of our postal unions and management associations have committed to joining this taskforce to ensure strong coordination throughout our organization. Because of the unprecedented demands of the 2020 election, this taskforce will help ensure that election officials and voters are well informed and fully supported by the Postal Service.
I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.
I want to assure all Americans of the following: 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, we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.
In addition, effective Oct. 1, we will engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.
I am grateful for the commitment and dedication of all the men and women of the Postal Service, and the trust they earn from the American public every day, especially as we continue to contend with the impacts of COVID-19. As we move forward, they will have the full support of our organization throughout the election.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.