The Trump administration’s assault on the U.S. Postal Service ahead of an expected surge in mail-in voting during the general election may amount to obstructing mail, a federal crime, said Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern District of Michigan.
Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and megadonor, has drawn serious criticism for sweeping changes he’s implemented at USPS since becoming the postmaster general on June 16. The changes, including removing mail-sorting machines and drop boxes, prohibiting employee overtime, and imposing a hiring freeze, have led to delays in mail delivery in many areas, including Ohio.
Trump even admitted Thursday that he’s preventing additional funding for the USPS in order to make it more difficult to handle the influx of mail-in ballots.
DeJoy claims he's fixing inefficiencies in the agency. But critics are wondering why these changes need to happen now, during a pandemic that prevents many people from leaving home.
“Obstructing mail is a federal offense, but who is going to prosecute Trump’s Postmaster General DeJoy in (Attorney General William) Barr’s DOJ?” McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and legal analyst, tweeted Saturday.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder chimed in, “The next, real, justice Department.”
Election officials across the country, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, are worried that many absentee ballots won’t reach clerk's offices in time because of the USPS cuts and changes. On Friday, Benson said she's worried that tens of thousands of votes may be discounted in Michigan's general election for arriving after Election Day. In the primary election, 6,400 voters were trashed because they arrived too late. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a little more than 10,000 votes.
In letters to 46 states, the U.S. Postal Service recently warned that voters could be disenfranchised because of delays in the mail.
Attorneys general also are considering a lawsuit over the USPS overhauls.
Here in Michigan, we’re making sure every vote counts. Absentee voting is now part of our state Constitution, and no one should have to risk their life in order to vote during the pandemic. #VoteByMail2020 https://t.co/zJtScqt2Tg— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) August 14, 2020
The USPS remains confident it can handle the load.
“There is not going to be an impact on service,” Justin Glass, director of the postal service’s election mail operations, told Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and other states' officials two weeks ago. “There may be some temporary things as we adjust but those are all temporary.”