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Postal reps tell Shaheen USPS can handle mail-in voting

LACONIA - The Postal Service is quite capable of handling the demands of mail-in balloting for this year's general election, postal worker representatives told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in an online discussion Tuesday.

Critics have warned that cuts and operational changes being imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy could cause delays and disruption in the November election, which is being conducted amid a pandemic that will boost the number of people who will vote by mail.

Bill Brickley, legislative liaison for the NH National Association of Letter Carriers, said election mail of all types represents 1 to 2 percent of the overall volume handled in the system from September through November.

"That's miniscule and considering we already have a depressed economy, we have less first class mail than usual," he said. "It’s a manufactured crisis. We can process all - not just the ballots — all political mail and we go to the extremes to get all the political mail moved every single day."

More than 20 states had announced they would be suing to stop the changes.

On Tuesday, DeJoy said he would suspend his initiatives until after the election "to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail." He said mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain in place, no mail processing facilities will be closed and overtime will be approved as needed.

Shaheen agreed with Brickley’s assessment that concerns that the postal system wouldn’t be up to the challenge of increased mail-in balloting was a "manufactured crisis."

"The real challenge is in ensuring the Postal Service can continue to operate to address the needs that people in New Hampshire and the rest of the country have, particularly in our small towns and rural communities, where many people have a harder time."

Janice Kelble, legislative director of the American Postal Workers Union Local 230, said the Postal Service has long standing financial problems, including an onerous pension funding requirement. Then the pandemic hit, sickening workers and creating new expenses, including for personal protection equipment.

Emergency relief funding is needed, but has not been forthcoming even as other entities received such support, she said.

"I think that most Americans if they got a voice in this, would have picked the Postal Service way ahead of the cruise lines for getting stimulus aid," she said.