U.S. postal workers load their trucks as they begin their day during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Carlsbad, California, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Members of Long Island’s congressional delegation joined in sounding the alarm over the Trump administration’s recent U.S. Postal Service cuts that are expected to hinder mail-in ballots in November’s elections.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and U.S. Rep Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) are calling on the USPS to restore recent cuts to employee overtime, reinstate equipment that has been removed from mail processing centers, and return mail boxes that have been removed. U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he too would vote to fully fund the USPS.

“This does not make sense that in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of one of the most consequential elections in the history of the United States of America that is reliant on the mail services, that we are removing these machines, that we are cutting overtime, and that we are changing these processes,” Suozzi told reporters Monday.

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump political donor, agreed to testify on Aug. 24 before a House of Representatives panel investigating whether service changes adopted in recent weeks have slowed mail deliveries, according to the committee, which called his appearance voluntary.

Congressional Democrats have raised concerns that, in a pandemic that is expected to result in about twice as many Americans voting by mail as did so in 2016, cost cuts at the Postal Service could lead to missed or delayed ballots. Trump, who has repeatedly and without evidence claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud, denied trying to undermine the Postal Service’s ability to handle a flood of ballots.

“We want to make it run efficiently, run good,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News amid an outcry from Democrats and other critics who accuse him of trying to hamstring the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls.

“We want to make it run for less money, much better, always taking care of our postal workers,” the Republican president said, describing the Postal Service “one of the disasters of the world.”

Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, and one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016. Trump, who himself plans to cast an absentee ballot by mail in Florida, and many other Republicans have opposed an expansion of mail-in voting to accommodate people concerned about going to the polls to vote in-person due to fears amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic-led House will meet on Saturday to consider legislation prohibiting changes to Postal Service levels that were in place on Jan. 1, 2020. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) called for the firing of DeJoyHouse Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also called on the FBI to open a criminal probe into DeJoy. And several Democratic state attorneys general also considering potential legal action to stop Postal Service changes that could affect the election outcome.

“President Trump’s actions to interfere with the operations of the U.S. Postal Service in advance of the presidential election is deeply disturbing,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “It is an attempt at an authoritarian power grab in an effort to hold on to power, plain and simple. I, along with numerous other state attorneys general from around the nation, are now swiftly examining every legal option to protect the postal service and Americans’ right to vote absentee.”

Local postal worker union leaders said they were shocked at the recent changes.

“We’ve never had a postmaster general out and out just try to ruin the Postal Service,” said said Kevin Tabarus, president of the National Mail Handlers Union Local 300, which represents 5,100 mail handlers in New York Metro area. “We’ve never had the White House play politics with the Postal Service. Your mail is being delayed, not because of us.”

-With Reuters

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