Locals Rally In Support Of USPS Ahead Of 2020 Election In Carson City
Structural changes within the United States Postal Service have caused concern across the country, and locally. On Saturday, people rallied in front of the post offices in Reno, Sparks and Carson City to support the Postal Service, including its role in the upcoming election, and the delivery of essential services. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck covered the rally in Carson City.
About 20 demonstrators lined the street in front of the post office in the state capitol in support of the Postal Service and its critical role in delivering mail-in-ballots this election.
Earlier this month, Nevada lawmakers approved a bill requiring absentee ballots to be sent to all registered voters in the state in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 at polling locations. However, recent operational changes within the Postal Service have since delayed mail across the country, worrying voters, including Taylor Kissinger of Carson City. He shared his concerns about the upcoming election.
“One: that all the ballots get counted, everybody has a chance to vote no matter what their political affiliation is,” Kissinger said.
The changes in the Postal Service were spearheaded by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor.
DeJoy recently said the Postal Service is estimated to lose $9 billion this year, so he announced changes earlier this month within the USPS to save money, including cutting employee overtime hours and eliminating some postal-sorting machines. The shift has caused almost immediate mail delays across the country.
Kissinger said he’s now hesitant to mail his ballot. He’ll be taking it to a designated drop-off location.
“It's wonderful to be able to do that, and not have to stand in line, take time off from work, and everything else, and just go vote. You can do it in your armchair, and be fully informed, and vote,” Kissinger said.
During a hearing with members of the Senate on Friday, DeJoy said it was never his intention to suppress votes, and the Postal Service is fully capable, and committed, to delivering election mail on time.
DeJoy also announced last week that he will halt the removal of mail-sorting machines and other changes that have delayed the mail, until after the election, but machines will not be returned.
“I think the American public should be able to vote by mail, and the Postal Service will support [that]. So, I guess that's yes,” DeJoy said.
Mail-in-ballots have caused heated partisan debate, with President Donald Trump falsely claiming that they lead to excessive fraud, though Trump himself requested an absentee ballot for Florida’s GOP primary earlier this year.
As for DeJoy, he said he’ll be voting by mail this fall.
But, DeJoy’s actions have still raised concerns, especially among Democratic senators, like Nevada’s Jacky Rosen.
“In Las Vegas, where we're expecting mail volume to ramp up soon, our postal workers are reporting the removal of sorting machines from our general mail facility, which is actually right down the street from my house," Rosen said.
The Postal Service doesn’t only deliver ballots, it provides other essential services, like delivering medication, social security, bills and rent checks.
“Can you look me in the eye, and all the Nevada veterans in the eye, all the Nevada seniors in the eye, and tell us that you will not continue, in the policies in the future, that you know that will harm my seniors, my veterans here in Nevada,” Rosen asked DeJoy, “Can you look us in the eye, and commit to being sure that they have on-time delivery?”
“I'm working towards on-time delivery, ma'am. Yes, I can commit to that,” DeJoy answered.
For some Nevadans, including healthcare advocate and cyclist Vivian Leal from Reno, physically going to the pharmacy is a risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. She relies on the Postal Service to deliver her daily thyroid medication.
“I have multiple sclerosis, and so I ride my bicycle, but that's about the extent of my contact with other people, and even that I do in a distance situation," Leal said. “I don't go anywhere, and so for me to not get what I'm expecting through the Postal Service that I need for my medical conditions, it’s frightening.”
Leal said her prescription refill came late after the changes within the USPS were made.
“I was kind of looking at my box and it's like, I was down to four pills by the time my new supply came, and that's kind of cutting it close,” Leal said.
Leal said postal workers need love and support, now more than ever.
“I really want to speak up to say that our mail carriers, who have been enlisted to be the medical supplier for so many of us under this pandemic, so many people have moved their prescriptions online to avoid contagion of COVID-19, they need to be supported. They are in a way almost healthcare workers in that aspect, and it's an additional responsibility that they've had, and now they have the ballots,” Leal said.
Members of the House agreed with that sentiment. On Saturday, lawmakers approved a bill to halt the changes within the Postal Service that are causing delays and awarded $25 billion to the USPS for the election. But, the bill will most likely fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Trump vowed he would veto the bill.
Editor's note: The image caption in this story has been corrected from Aug. 23 to Aug. 22.
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