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PARSIPPANY, NJ - When Morristown Committeeman Mark Gyrofy shared photos on Twitter of mailboxes being taken off the street and placed on a truck on Saturday, it caught the attention of U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill, who will be returning to Washington to take up the issue of the United States Postal Service.
“The House will be returning to vote this week on legislation to save the USPS and has called the Postmaster General to testify about his recent policies, including removing sorting machines across the country, which undermine the ability of the post office to do its job and serve the American people," she said. "The Senate, which is in recess, should return to session and do the same.”
Not long after Gyrok's post, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty clarified to the Daily Record that the large blue boxes weren't being permanently removed, but replaced with new anti-fishing boxes. These look almost identical to the old mailboxes, but are built to prevent contents from being removed illegally through the slot using string and other tools.
But Sherrill noted the concerns are for more than the one incident.
“I’m deeply disturbed by reports around the country and here in the 11th District about slowdowns at the U.S. Postal Service," she said. "Americans depend on the USPS, and the Postmaster General’s recent policies are placing an undue burden on our citizens: veterans are waiting weeks for prescriptions to be delivered, people are seeing their credit scores drop because payments sent through the mail are delivered late, and small businesses already reeling from the pandemic are unable to reach their customers or receive materials as they normally would."
And she isn't the only legislator concerned. The U.S. Postal Service has warned New Jersey officials that mail-in ballots may not be processed in time for the November election, prompting a political firestorm over the mail-in process and concerns from both parties over threats to the election's legitimacy.
The Postal Service warned New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way of the delay in a July 30 letter. At least one New Jersey politician has filed a criminal referral, while others have expressed their outrage about the state of the USPS.
Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. wants President Donald Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy investigated, and, frankly, he doesn't care who does it.
Pascrell sent a letter to Postal Service Inspector General Tammy L. Whitcomb seeking an investigation into recent institutional changes. Then on Friday, Pascrell sent a letter to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal urging an investigation into what he calls interference in New Jersey elections.
"I call upon you to open a wide-ranging investigation of Trump's actions to interfere in our elections and to empanel a grand jury for the purpose of considering criminal indictments for Donald Trump, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, members of the United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors, and any other officials in the Trump government that are participating in or have participated in the subversion of New Jersey state elections," he wrote.
Other area politicians have joined in to support the USPS and criticize Trump's efforts to undermine elections.
Congressman Chris Smith says he has repeatedly pushed for "much-needed relief" to stabilize the USPS, especially because of the role it will play in November's election.
"A critical aspect of securing our elections is ensuring our Nation has a robust and healthy United States Postal Service," Smith said in a statement. "In the current time of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, our economy and elections are even more reliant upon a strongly supported USPS."
Smith also said county clerks, county governing bodies and the USPS have expressed concerns about voting by mail.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer will visit the Paramus Post Office at 1 p.m. on Tuesday prior to returning to Washington D.C. as a vote is scheduled "to safeguard the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the timely delivery of mail, medication, and voting materials," according to his office.
"The USPS is vital to everything we do as Americans and is critical in delivering everything from medications to social security checks to mail-in ballots for people here in #NJ5. We must do everything in our power to protect it," Gottheimer said on Facebook.
President Trump said so himself last week, admitting that he opposed additional funding to assist the USPS because it would allow states to employ widespread vote-by-mail balloting , Camden County Freeholder Melinda Kane noted.
"Let's be clear: voting by mail is a safe and reliable way to cast your ballot, and the USPS should not be subject to political attacks," she said.
Governor Phil Murphy announced Friday that New Jersey's election will be mostly mail-in, with everybody getting a ballot that they can send through the USPS.
If you do vote in person, you will have to do "what we call provisional voting because the folks won't necessarily know at the voting location whether or not you have already mailed a ballot in."
According to a representative from the USPS, box removal is done on an annual basis after a review of "collection box density." This review seeks out "redundant" or "seldom used" collection boxes.
After vocal concern from officials and local residents, however, the removal of mailboxes has been put on hold.
"This process is one of the many ways the Postal Service makes adjustments to our infrastructure to match our resources to declining mail volumes. Given the recent customer concerns the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for a period of 90 days while we evaluate our customers' concerns," said spokesman Ray V. Daiutolo Sr.
Sherrill also noted that USPS announced over the weekend that it will suspend the removal of all mailboxes for 90 days and that all mailboxes removed in Morristown will be replaced with anti-theft boxes.
"My office is in contact with our regional USPS district office. We will continue to keep residents informed and get updated information on timetables to ensure this doesn’t unduly burden residents," she said.
All this comes after a recent interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, in which Trump said he would block $25 billion in funds for the Postal Service, and would also block another $3.6 billion in additional election funding, according to the Washington Post.
"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 in the phone interview. "Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped."
This post contains reporting by Josh Bakan, Montana Samuels and Carl Stoffers.
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