The president of the country's largest postal workers union warned Friday that cost cuts could exacerbate mail delays at a time when states are preparing for increased use of absentee and mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There are states that didn't allow voting by mail before that are now going to have to set it up because of this pandemic moment," Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, told USA TODAY. "The post office is now the key to making sure tens of millions of people can get to the ballot box."
The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing backlogs of mail throughout the country after a shift in procedures was put in place this month, Dimondstein said. A memo shared with all employees alerted them to changes that included late and extra trips being "no longer authorized or accepted."
"One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that – temporarily –we may see mail left behind on the workroom floor or docks... which is not typical," the memo, which the APWU shared with USA Today, reads.
Marti Johnson, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, said in an emailed statement that the system is a "financially unsustainable position" and that its leadership is "vigorously focusing" on efficiency.
"Of course we acknowledge that temporary service impacts can occur as we redouble our efforts to conform to the current operating plans, but any such impacts will be monitored and temporary as the root causes of any issues will be addressed as necessary and corrected as appropriate," Johnson said.
Dimonstein said the postmaster general had "instituted policies over the last week or two that have reduced the amount of hours of work the employees are performing, reduced the hours of many retail operations, and changed transportation schedules so that if a truck is not full, it doesn't go."
Dimondstein said the changes in policy are directly responsible for the unprecedented delays, and anticipates that it will erode the public's trust in the USPS if left unchecked.
"If we can't serve the people at a time they want things quicker, it undermines people's confidence in the postal service, which they usually strongly support," Dimondstein said. "And if people no longer support us, that opens the door for us to get privatized."
Dimondstein said that under normal circumstances, mail-in voting is an air-tight system, despite President Donald Trump's recent attacks on it.
"Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster," Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday. "Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count!"
Ahead of the Nov. 3 election, Trump has speculated about foreign interference via mail-in voting, which voting experts and election officials have denounced as false.
"We've been doing vote by mail for generations," Dimondstein said. "This idea that voting by mail is fraudulent is a fraud. It's very protected and reliable and private. We're concerned about anything that will slow down the mail, which affects everything we do."
Johnson said "the Postal Service remains fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process" when it comes to mail voting.
"To be clear ... and despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down Election Mail or any other mail," Johnson said. "Instead, we continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail consistent with our standards."
The change in procedures that is causing delays was put in place by Louis DeJoy – a top donor for Trump – who took over as CEO and postmaster general this month.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the changes implemented by DeJoy "are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting" among union officials and postal workers, an effort that the USPS denied.
"The notion that the Postmaster General makes decisions concerning the Postal Service at the direction of the President is wholly misplaced and off-base," Johnson said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Postal Service cost cuts raise concerns for mail voting