'No evidence' of massive U.S. mail-in voting fraud ahead: U.S. federal election commissioner
A pitched battle over the U.S. Postal Service and its ability to reliably deliver presidential election ballots during a pandemic has broken out on the eve of the parties’ high-profile conventions.
Democrats accuse President Donald Trump of sabotaging the agency to cripple vote-by-mail efforts, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi suspended the House’s summer recess to take up related legislation. Meanwhile, Trump, who’s trailing challenger Joe Biden in polls, has claimed -- without evidence -- that widespread remote voting routinely leads to massive fraud, putting Republicans in a tough spot, given the popularity of the Postal Service.
“Universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic, it’s going to make our country a laughing stock all over the world,” Trump said on Saturday.
The Democrats’ scrutiny is focused on Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general appointed by Trump, who recently launched a series of service cutbacks. The agency has also sent warnings to 46 states, saying it may not be able to deliver their ballots on time for the November election.
Pelosi called DeJoy “a complicit crony” of Trump’s. “We see the devastating effects of the president’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” Pelosi said Sunday in an emailed message to her Democratic colleagues.
House Democrats have demanded that DeJoy testify at a hearing before the House Oversight Committee on Aug. 24. It’s unclear if he will appear. Postal Service officials didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment sent outside of normal business hours.
The issue is certain to be a major theme for Democrats as they kick off their party convention on Monday -- nominally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but in reality will play out virtually in living rooms across the country.
Prominent Democrats have raised concerns around voter suppression. Former President Barack Obama said that Trump was trying to “actively kneecap the Postal Service.” Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, who vied for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Trump thinks a lower turnout will help him win re-election.
Under DeJoy, who’s run the Postal Service since May, post office operating hours have been reduced and overtime work cut, which has delayed delivery of mail on certain routes. Recent media reports have pointed to the removal of mail sorting machines in various cities, as well as the removal of mailboxes from streets.
DeJoy, a former businessman and prominent donor to Republicans, has made no secret that he planned to cut costs at the Post Service, which has lost money for years.
The agency “remains on an unsustainable path and we will continue to focus on improving operational efficiency and pursuing other reforms in order to put the Postal Service on a trajectory for long-term financial stability,” he said in a statement in July.
Pelosi said she will set a vote this week on a bill by from Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney that would block the Postal Service from implementing changes from its operations procedures that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The vote could be held on Saturday, according to a Democratic aide.
It’s possible that the risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus will keep millions of Americans at home through November’s balloting. Seniors, the nation’s most avid voters, are also those most likely to suffer serious complications, should they contract COVID-19. State officials, who actually run the polling, have made mail-in-ballots a cornerstone of their plans.
“We need to fund the Postal Service,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said on Fox News Sunday. “We need to root for its success, rather than the opposite.”
For his part, Trump has sought to sow doubt in the accuracy of mass mail-in-voting, even as he says he supports -- and personally uses -- standard absentee balloting. “Universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic,” Trump said on Saturday without offering evidence.
Told on CNN on Sunday that there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S., Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, responded that “there’s no evidence that there’s not, either.”
But there are signs that some Republicans are uncomfortable with attacking mail-in voting. On Sunday, Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican facing a tough re-election fight, echoed Pelosi’s call for Congress to act.
“The Senate should return this week to consider a COVID-19 package that includes the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act—a bill I introduced w/@SenFeinstein in July -- which would provide USPS w/ up to $25 billion to cover losses or operational expenses resulting from COVID-19,” she tweeted.
More than 200 lawsuits have been filed in 43 states and the District of Columbia over electoral practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one tally. Mail-in-voting rules varies widely by state, with some like California, Utah automatically planning to send voters a ballot in the mail. Oregon has done all-mail-in elections for decades.
Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo of California said in a statement on Sunday that DeJoy and Trump “are intentionally undermining the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots.” She urged her state’s attorney general to open up a criminal probe.
Meadows tweeted on Sunday that it was “nonsense” to say Trump was undercutting USPS. A former congressman from North Carolina, Meadows accused Democrats of playing politics by rejecting US$10 billion for the agency as part of an economic stimulus package.
But that’s significantly less than the US$25 billion that Democrats want for the agency as part of a coronavirus aid package. They also want an additional US$3.6 billion in stimulus funding to go to states for costs associated with expanded mail-in and early in-person voting.
Even if the two sides reach an agreement on additional money, the Trump campaign is likely to still oppose widespread mail-in voting.
Steve Cortes, a Trump campaign adviser, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “no amount of money” would be enough to get the agency ready for universal mail-in-voting.
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