Mail sorting machines that can handle high volumes of letters are being removed from post offices across the country, according to multiple national and local news reports. Voters and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also complaining that some curbside mail collection boxes are being removed, something the Postal Service is reportedly suspending.
It comes amid revelations USPS has warned states coast to coast that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail this November will arrive in time to be counted, raising the possibility that millions of American voters could be disenfranchised.
VICE and CNN report that sorting machines have already been removed or are slated to be removed in cities across the country. CNN, citing documents, put the number of machines at 671, with the removals having started in June. VICE said it identified 19 sorting machines from five processing facilities, but indicated the number could be higher.
“This will slow mail processing,” a union official said in a document obtained by VICE.
Some local news outlets have been able to confirm sorting machine removals in their areas.
A union representative in Lehigh Valley, Mo., told WFMZ three sorting machines had been removed or were in the process of being removed from a processing plant in Bethlehem Township. KWCH reported one machine in Wichita, two in Springfield, Mo., and four in Kansas City, Mo., had been removed, according to a local postal union leader.
The Postal Service sent a statement to KWCH, saying it routinely moves around equipment to match its mail and package volumes.
"Additionally, we are retiring older, out of date equipment so that we can expand our newer sorting equipment that can handle as many as 30,000 letters an hour. This will increase our capacity and our efficiency to handle increased package volume as well as any current letter and flat volume. This is a multi-year effort that prepares us for the future," the statement read.
Meanwhile, the removal of Postal Service collection mailboxes triggered concerns and anger in Oregon and Montana. Boxes were also removed in Indiana and other states. But reports came out Friday that USPS was suspending that.
The Post Office sent letters to all 50 states and the District Columbia warning about the potential for ballots failing to reach elections offices in time in November. While some states with permissive vote-by-mail laws were given a less stringent warning, the majority with more restrictive requirements that limit when a ballot must be cast were told the situation was more dire.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a prominent political donor to President Donald Trump who was recently appointed, told Democratic congressional leaders the warning was merely "asking elected officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works, and be mindful of our delivery standards, in order to provide voters ample time to cast ballots through the mail."
Though Trump and many of his top aides cast their own ballots by mail, The president has repeatedly criticized efforts to allow more people to do so, which he argues -- without evidence -- will lead to increased voter fraud.
Trump also said in March that higher voting levels would hurt Republicans, referencing proposals by Democrats that would make it easier for people to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump told Fox & Friends, referencing negotiations for the CARES relief act. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”