Protesters gathered outside the US Postal Service chief’s home in Washington DC on Saturday following national outcry over steep cuts to the agency and Donald Trump‘s threats to mail-in ballots ahead of November’s presidential election.
Roughly 100 people marched to the luxury apartment building of postmaster general Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and top donor to his campaign, who was appointed to the role earlier this summer.
Demonstrators blared horns and noisemakers as a “wake-up call” to Mr DeJoy and chanted demands for his resignation. During his first weeks as USPS chief, Mr DeJoy has imposed sweeping cuts to overtime pay and sought the removal of critical mail-sorting machines as post offices brace for a surge in election-related mail, including absentee ballots, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cuts have threatened vote-by-mail efforts amid the president’s ongoing false claims that it will lead to mass voter fraud – despite this week requesting a mail-in ballot for himself.
Along with threatening the election, the USPS cuts also have endangered rent and other bill payments following service and delivery slow-downs.
Organised by Shut Down DC, the demonstration “dropped in on DeJoy’s swanky apartment on Saturday for an early morning noise demonstration to give him a much needed wakeup call,” the group said.
Protesters carried signs reading “traitor” and “DePose DeJoy” and attached fake “ballots” to the door of his apartment building to demand that the Trump administration fund vote-by-mail efforts and restore the agency’s capacity to handle an expected surge in volume.
“During a global pandemic, the postal service is essential to democracy,” the group said in a statement.
“Postal workers are literally delivering democracy by safely delivering Americans’ votes. And Trump appointed DeJoy, a logistics executive, to gut the safest and most accessible way to vote.”
Mr DeJoy, who assumed the role in June, has called recent cost-cutting measures a “strategic plan to achieve operation excellence and financial stability” following a pandemic-related decline in mail volume.
Nearly every state and Washington DC have received warnings from the postal service that state election rules for absentee ballots are “incongruous” with the realities of mail delivery.
In letters drafted before Mr DeJoy’s appointment, USPS said that it cannot guarantee absentee ballots will arrive in time to be counted for November’s elections in 46 states and Washington DC, signalling the possibility of mass disenfranchisement.
This month, USPS said it has “ample capacity to adjust” its nationwide processing and delivery network to meet an expected increase in election-related mail.
Mr Trump acknowledged on Thursday that he’s depriving the USPS of funding to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him re-election.
In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the postal service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that absentee ballots will lead to a spike in voter fraud, while also explicitly stating that he is denying funding to expand the option because it would lead to an increase in participation. He told Fox News earlier this year that an increase in mail-in ballots would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.
Public health officials, and vulnerable citizens, have raised concerns that crowded polling stations could lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections.