WASHINGTON • US Democrats have stepped up pressure against a cost-cutting campaign by President Donald Trump’s appointed Postal Service chief that they fear will hold up mail-in ballots in November’s election, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling lawmakers back and several states considering legal action.
Top Democrats in Congress called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and another top postal official to testify this month at a hearing on a wave of cuts that has slowed mail delivery across the country, alarming lawmakers ahead of the Nov 3 election when up to half of voters in the United States could cast ballots by mail.
Democrats have accused Mr Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls, of trying to hamstring the cash-strapped Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting.
Mr Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the US, as one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.
Several Democratic state attorneys-general told Reuters on Sunday they were in discussions about potential legal action to stop Postal Service changes that could affect the election outcome.
“It is outrageous that Donald Trump would attempt to undermine the US Postal Service for electoral gain,” Massachusetts Attorney-General Maura Healey told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that the Republican President’s actions raised constitutional, regulatory and procedural questions.
Ms Healey added that counterparts in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, North Carolina, Washington and other states were conferring.
North Carolina Attorney-General Josh Stein declined to say how many states were participating in the legal discussions, adding that North Carolina residents could request ballots now and general ballots would be sent to voters starting on Sept 4.
“There are many states that share this concern about what the President and the Postmaster General are doing to the Postal Service, and are reviewing all legal options available to us to protect the integrity of these elections,” Mr Stein told Reuters.
Ms Pelosi, the country’s top elected Democrat, said on Sunday that she was calling the Democratic-controlled House back to Washington later this week to vote on legislation to protect the Postal Service from what she called Mr Trump’s “campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters”.
A senior Democratic aide said House lawmakers would likely return on Saturday to vote on the Bill, which would prohibit changes to Postal Service levels that were in place on Jan 1 this year.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there were no scheduling updates for the Republican-controlled Senate.
But Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate locked in a tight re-election race, said on Twitter that the Senate should return this week to consider legislation to provide the Postal Service up to US$25 billion (S$34.2 billion) in coronavirus funding.
Congressional Democrats also called on Mr DeJoy, a Trump donor, and Postal Service chairman Robert Duncan to testify at an Aug 24 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Postal Service’s board of governors should remove Mr DeJoy if he “refuses to come before Congress”. Mr DeJoy did not respond to a request for comment.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that the White House feared a surge in mail-in voting could delay election results and leave the naming of the new president to the Speaker of the House.
“A number of states are now trying to figure out how they are going to go to universal mail-in ballots,” Mr Meadows said.
“That’s a disaster where we won’t know the election results on Nov 3 and we might not know it for months and for me that’s problematic because the Constitution says that then a Nancy Pelosi in the House would actually pick the president on Jan 20.”