OLATHE, Kan. — About a dozen people gathered outside of the Olathe post office at 138th and Black Bob Road Tuesday to support the postal service and call for the ouster of Postmaster Louis DeJoy in light of changes he recently made at the USPS.
Ahead of the election, DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO who took over the Postal Service in June, has sparked nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks. Reports also indicated the service was removing some mailboxes and mail sorting machines.
After backlash and controversy over concerns the changes could affect mail-in ballots reaching election commmissions in November late Tuesday, DeJoy reversed course.
Suggestions that DeJoy’s changes may affect the election are causing an uproar.
“Our phones rang quite a bit with voters concerned about actually requesting ballot in the mail because they had heard the stories on the TV that there was going to be a problem with mail delivery,” Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt said.
Schmidt said she is not concerned about the USPS affecting mail-in ballot returns. She said of the 85,000 mail in ballots received in the August primary, just 600 were not counted because they came in late or were not postmarked before the cutoff.
To be safe, Schmidt always suggests dropping off ballots in ballot boxes or polling locations.
On the other side of the state line, that is not an option. Mail in ballots must be mailed in.
“We are always concerned that we get ballots back in a timely manner,” Corey Dillon, Director of the Jackson County Election Board, said.
She stressed that the Jackson County Election Board in constant contact with the postal service to make sure ballots in-route get to them in time to count. But she said there is only so much the election board and the postal service can do. The responsibility ultimately falls on the voter.
“As long as we build awareness and convince people to not procrastinate I think we won’t have a problem,” Dillon said.
Kansas’ 3rd Distict Representative Sharice Davids praised the Postmaster’s decision to suspend further changes, but she said it is not enough. Davids wants to see restoration of changes already made, such as mail sorting machines that have been removed, four of them in the Kansas City Metro.
She also said her concerns go beyond mail-in ballots than ballots.
“In the last week alone I’ve heard from so many folks who are concerned about their prescription medications,” Davids said. “We’re talking about seniors and veterans, veterans who are very dependent on the postal service for the medication.”
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran also weighed in and called on DeJoy to work with Congress to reform the USPS in order to put it on firmer financial footing and protect the integrity of the USPS.
“Serving a rural state like Kansas, I understand well the crippling impact that losing the Postal Service would have on rural communities across the country,” Sen. Moran wrote. “The Postal Service is navigating unchartered waters but it cannot fail its responsibilities… As leaders, we must take a big picture approach to the crisis playing out and discuss comprehensive reforms that will stabilize the institution. Many of the necessary reforms needed to secure the Postal Service require congressional action, rather than unilateral decisions made without the input of stakeholders and Congress.”
Senator Moran requested a meeting with Postmaster General DeJoy in June and again this week urged DeJoy and USPS leadership to meet and engage with Congress on postal reform.
The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Postmaster General, Two months ago I requested a meeting with you and was informed you did not intend to engage with Congress for the time being. As the country continues to battle COVID-19 and prepares for a presidential election, it is imperative that your engagement with Congress begins immediately. I again respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss postal reform legislation and the recent restructuring of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
You are beginning your tenure at a time when the Postal Service faces a critical juncture of financial instability and with more Americans than ever depending on reliable mail delivery. Serving a rural state like Kansas, I understand well the crippling impact that losing the Postal Service would have on rural communities across the country. The Postal Service is navigating uncharted waters but it cannot fail its responsibilities. Kansans have expressed grave concern with recent mail delays, especially those waiting for prescription deliveries as timely delivery is often a matter of life and death. As leaders, we must take a big picture approach to the crisis playing out and discuss comprehensive reforms that will stabilize the institution.
Many of the necessary reforms needed to secure the Postal Service require congressional action, rather than unilateral decisions made without the input of stakeholders and Congress. The urgent threats facing the institution should be spurring you into discussions with Congress and the White House. Given that President Trump’s chief-of-staff, former Congressman Mark Meadows, was a leader in postal reform during his time in the House of Representatives, I believe this moment in time provides a unique opportunity for this administration to work with a willing audience in Congress eager to achieve long-term reforms for the Postal Service.
Congress derives its duty to protect and oversee the Postal Service from the Constitution itself and I do not take this responsibility lightly. During the past three sessions of Congress, I have worked closely with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to introduce a postal reform bill that would put the Postal Service on firmer financial footing, improve service performance, allow for the developments of new products and enhance transparency.
I am eager to work with you and the White House to craft bipartisan legislation that will put the Postal Service back on a sustainable path, allowing it to continue serving Americans for years to come. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to working together to protect the future of the United States Postal Service.Kansas Senator Jerry Moran