Gov. Phil Murphy entered the partisan fray over funding the U.S. Postal Service on Sunday, calling for more money for the beleaguered agency as New Jersey plans to conduct its fall election largely by mail.
Murphy endorsed House Democratic efforts to spend billions of dollars on the Postal Service, which told New Jersey and other states that it couldn’t guarantee that absentee ballots would be delivered in time for them to be counted in November.
The Democratic governor announced last week that the state would send ballots to all 6.2 million registered voters due to the coronavirus pandemic, though there would still be opportunities to vote by mail.
A $25 billion allocation for the Postal Service is part of the House-passed $3.4 trillion stimulus bill, which Senate Republicans have not taken up.
“The last thing we should be doing is politicizing the Postal Service,” Murphy said on “Fox News Sunday. “Think about the seniors who rely on it for medicines, our veterans, our small businesses, the commerce associated with the backbone of this country.
“We need to fund the Postal Service. We need to root for its success as opposed to the opposite.”
Trump on Saturday said decisions like Murphy’s to expand mail voting were contributing to the Postal Service’s problems.
“They didn’t know anything about this,” Trump said at a press conference at his Bedminster golf club, where he spending the weekend. “How does a Postal Service that doesn’t know about it, now all of a sudden, New Jersey is supposed to take out, and millions of ballots are going to be sent all over New Jersey?”
Postmaster Louis DeJoy has restructured the Postal Service, decommissioning machines, cutting overtime and changing work rules that postal workers say have had the effect of slowing down mail delivery.
The Postal Service also has apparently removed some mailboxes from streets, although it is not clear if they were already scheduled to be removed. In Morristown, a truck was seen carrying several mailboxes, and Mayor Timothy Dougherty’s office said on the town’s Facebook page that he was not told about any scheduled removals or replacements.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th Dist., said Dougherty later told her that one box had been replaced. She said she would look into the issue.
“I’d like to understand right now why we’re seeing our mailboxes on the back of trucks being taken out of our city,” Sherrill told NJ Advance Media.
Sen. Cory Booker also weighed in on the issue Sunday.
“What concerns me is an all-out attack — they’re not even hiding it — by the president of the United States to undermine the United States Postal Service, to underfund it, to allow a mega-donor leading it to overtly do things to slow down the mail, put a choke hold on this institution and make it very difficult for states to do what they need to do to ensure that Americans will have the freedom to vote amidst the pandemic,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist., has asked state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to convene a grand jury to begin an investigation of whether Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to the president, are “participating in or have participated in the subversion of New Jersey state elections.”
And House Democrats said Sunday they will cut short their summer recess and conduct an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Aug. 24 at which they have asked DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan to testify.
They also have a conference call scheduled for Monday to decide what they want to do next regarding the Postal Service.
Sherrill said she will urge her colleagues to return to work this week.
“I think Congress has to get right back in session and investigate this,” she said. “Everyone in elected office has a duty to ensure fair elections. We really need to stand up now and ensure we’re supporting our Post Office system.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNN he would “guarantee right now” that Trump was not going to stop Americans from voting by mail.
“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their vote in a legitimate way, whether it’s the post office or anything else,” Meadows said.
Meadows also told CNN that DeJoy said that postal employees would work overtime to make sure ballots are delivered on time.
“If it’s about processing ballots, he’s willing to spend the overtime to make sure that it happens and make sure that we have ballots back as quickly as possible,” Meadows said.
Trump on Saturday praised DeJoy for his actions as postmaster general.
“The steps that he is taking are trying to stop the tremendous losses that have taken place for many, many years, Trump said. “He’s trying to streamline the Post Office and make it great again. Ok?
Trump has opposed efforts like New Jersey’s to automatically send ballots to every registered voter, expressing concerns over fraud.
A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that the rate of voter fraud for mail-in ballots was 0.00004% to 0.0009%.
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Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected].
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