Louis DeJoy, the US postmaster general, spent Friday and Monday appearing before Congress for the first time to explain recent controversies at the post office amid reports of widespread mail delays.
While DeJoy reassured the public that USPS has ample capacity to hold the November election, with millions more than usual expected to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic, he left many big questions unanswered. Here are a few of them:
What exactly happened with the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines?
DeJoy repeatedly testified that he had nothing to do with the removal of mailboxes and mail sorting machines, and in fact only learned about it after the fact. While he portrayed their removal as routine, he didn’t say who made the decision to remove them and how the post office typically makes the decision to remove these things. This was an opportunity for the postmaster general to restore public confidence in the way the post office went about making these changes, but all he chose to say was that he wasn’t involved. That only invites more speculation and uncertainty about why it was done.
Why won’t USPS restore the machines that were already removed?
DeJoy repeatedly firmly said that he would not reinstall sorting machines that had already been removed, “because they’re not needed”. But DeJoy offered no explanation of how USPS knows this and what the cost or burden of restoring the machines would be. David Williams, the former vice chair of the USPS board of governors, said last week he was puzzled by the decision to remove sorting machines and mailboxes because it wouldn’t save the agency significant money.
Who drafted a controversial memo saying USPS overtime would be eliminated?
The postmaster general also sought to distance himself from two memos from earlier this year that said overtime for workers would be eliminated (USPS denies there is an overtime ban). But even though documents have been public for more than a month, DeJoy said he did not know who wrote them or why. These documents exploded into controversy and it was remarkable that the postmaster general offered no understanding of how it came to be.
What exactly is causing delays?
DeJoy conceded to Congress that after he became postmaster general, he made a change instructing all trucks to leave on time. This, he conceded, led to mail delays, because the truck schedules became unaligned with plant schedules, leading to mail being left behind. But even DeJoy said he was unsure why the problem had lasted for weeks and it remains unclear what exactly he’s doing to fix the problem. DeJoy also said on Monday that this summer seemed like a good time to try and implement the changes because mail volume was down and it was ahead of USPS’s peak holiday season. But many experts and observers have questioned why USPS would tweak its processes in the midst of a pandemic and just months before an election when a record number of people are expected to vote by mail.
How will DeJoy secure the election?
DeJoy forcefully repeated that USPS has the capacity and will be able to guarantee the timely delivery of mail-in ballots this fall, even ones mailed close to election day. But how exactly the agency will do this remains unclear. USPS still faces a severe financial crisis and is under pressure to make cuts – what specific procedures will be in place to ensure that no election mail gets left behind?
Those famous blue mailboxes.