Each day, when Nick Casselli, president of a Philadelphia postal workers union, sits down at his desk on Main Street in the historic town of Darby, where trolley cars still run and the post office is a source of civic pride, his phone is full of alarmed messages about increasing delays in mail delivery.
Casselli and his 1,600 members have been in a state of high alert since Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and an ally of President Donald Trump, took over as postmaster general in May. Overtime was eliminated, prompting backups. Seven mail-sorting machines were removed from a nearby processing center in West Philadelphia, causing further delays. Now post offices are being told to open later and close during lunch.
“I have some customers banging on my people’s doors: ‘Open up!’” Casselli said.
Similar accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service are emerging across the country as DeJoy pushes cost-cutting measures he says are intended to overhaul an agency suffering billion-dollar losses. But as Trump rails almost daily against the service and delays clog the mail, voters and postal workers warn a crisis is building that could disenfranchise record numbers of Americans who will be casting ballots by mail in November because of the coronavirus.
For the most part, experts and employees say, the Postal Service is still capable of operating as usual. Yet the agency has warned states that it may not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute ballots. And earlier this past week Trump said he opposed new postal funding because of his opposition to mail-in voting, which he complains will benefit Democrats and claims without evidence is riddled with fraud. At risk are not just the ballots — and medical prescriptions and paychecks — of residents around the country, but also the reputation of the Postal Service as the most popular and perhaps the least politicized part of the federal government.
Philadelphia, a heavily Democratic city in a critical swing state, is a vivid example of how alarmed people have become. Rep. Brendan Boyle said his office had received 345 complaints about the Postal Service last month — compared to just 17 in July 2019.
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