MANCHESTER - Local postal union officials said the U.S. Postal Service at the Goffs Falls Road processing center is putting four of its mail sorting machines out of commission, a move critics charge will slow down the delivery of absentee ballots from New Hampshire voters to town and city clerks.
Dana Colette, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Local 230, said the controversy underscores the need for voters to mail any absentee ballots long before the Sept. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general election.
"We are already seeing the impact of this. If it is going to come down to slowdowns, the only thing I would suggest is do not wait until the last minute; don't procrastinate," Colette said.
Late last week, President Donald Trump told Fox News he hoped changes at USPS would frustrate the efforts of liberal Democrats to mobilize votes against him in states where early, mail-in voting is legal.
The USPS has put out its proposed equipment reduction plan and on page 8, it lists Manchester as one of the sites in 46 states where machines are being mothballed or sold to private entities.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said there's bipartisan support in Congress to get additional assistance for the postal service so the agency doesn't face cutbacks in overtime and equipment.
"If true, Postal Service leadership needs to explain immediately why mail processing in Manchester might be reduced. Granite Staters depend on timely mail delivery, particularly during this pandemic. It's deeply disturbing that the Trump administration is looking for ways to hobble this vital service for political purposes, and I will continue to fight for accountability and rally bipartisan support for assistance to support the Postal Service during this critical time," Shaheen said in a statement.
All mail sent to New Hampshire starts in one of two distribution centers.
All priority mail comes first to the center at 10 Celina Avenue in Nashua.
All non-priority mail starts in Manchester
All other mail is sent to the Manchester to be sorted and then fanned out to local post offices.
According to Colette, four out of 20 sorting machines in Manchester are being taken out of service.
The first is one of two general sorting machines used to separate regular envelopes from other "flat" mail such as larger envelopes that contain such things as legal documents.
They are also getting rid of two of 14 machines that separate out all general purpose mail by a delivery bar code, Colette said.
The center will also eliminate one of four machines that do advanced mail sorting, he added.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said last Thursday these equipment moves wre to improve efficiency and not any deliberate strategy to slow down mail delivery.
The Washington Post reported that DeJoy wrote in a letter to USPS workers that temporary delivery slowdowns were "unintended consequences," but that the "discipline" he was bringing to the agency "will increase our performance for the election and upcoming peak season and maintain the high level of public trust we have earned for dedication and commitment to our customers throughout our history."
Gardner sends out mailing on voting
A spokesperson with the Republican National Committee and state GOP officials declined to respond to a question for comment to this story.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State William Gardner announced Friday his office would be sending a mailing to all New Hampshire households that advise all residents of the requirements to register to vote or cast an absentee ballot all by mail along with other information on local polling places and contact information on local election officials.
State law permits all voters in 2020 to cite concern with COVID-19 as a reason to obtain an absentee ballot.
"As we approach the 2020 elections, it is important to get accurate answers to your elections-related questions," Gardner's office said in a statement.
"New Hampshire voters should remember that their local and state election officials, and the materials they provide, are their trusted sources of election information."