Image via Shutterstock USPS Supporters in Reno, Nevada
Image via Shutterstock

After Republican mega-donor Louis DeJoy became postmaster general, on-time delivery rates plummeted by as much as 30 points in some regions, The Guardian found.

Mail delivery for the United States Postal Service was roughly on time for the first half of 2020, according to data obtained by The Guardian. After Republican mega-donor Louis DeJoy took on the role of postmaster general, however, on-time rates plummeted by as much as 30 points in some regions.

From January to mid-June, the USPS delivered about 93% of first-class mail on time; its optimal goal is 95% on-time delivery. DeJoy was appointed mid-June, and within four weeks had implemented a number of changes that began slowing the process of delivery. By late August, the national average for on-time rates had dropped to 87.5%.

Areas most affected by the mail slow-down include a cluster of battleground states in the upcoming election. Several Midwestern swing states saw their on-time delivery rates plummet: Northern Ohio’s on-time delivery rates dropped as low as 63.60% while Detroit, a long-time Democratic stronghold, saw its postal district’s on-time delivery fall to 61.01%.

Under DeJoy’s direction, the USPS stopped paying mail carriers and clerks the overtime necessary to ensure that deliveries can be completed each day, mandating that mail be kept until the next day if distribution centers are running behind. He also had mail-sorting machines and mailboxes hauled off around the country without any official explanation. Videos of USPS workers locking up drop slots stoked widespread concern.

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“This is a remarkable graphic illustration that reveals the decline of on-time first-class mail from the very first day after Postmaster General DeJoy’s policies were announced and implemented,” Philip Rubio, a history professor at North Carolina A&T University who reviewed the data, told The Guardian. Rubio is also a former postal worker. “Not only do we see the national picture for first-class mail delivery worsening over time after DeJoy’s policies become effective, but we also see locally conditions varying and even emerging for the worse.” 

DeJoy defended the changes, saying in a statement that the initiatives were his attempts to “improve operational efficiency” and to “ensure that we meet our service standards.”

Elected officials and advocacy groups have warned that these significant changes—made a few months ahead of a high-stakes presidential election relying heavily on mail-in ballots—could yield contested results. In response, DeJoy said he would hold on implementing these changes until after Election Day. 

Despite that promise, mail continues to arrive late across the country. In the Baltimore district, for example, the on-time delivery rate remained at less than 60% by August’s end, The Guardian reported.

The Postal Service released a statement Friday touting improvements to its on-time delivery rate for first-class mail and on-time departures for trucks in September.

“The improvements are a result of the Postmaster General’s commitment to drive operational discipline and improve efficiencies across processing, transportation, and delivery,” the statement read.

“Unfortunately, even though on-time performance improved after those changes were put on pause, delivery speed is still well below normal and far below the postal service’s own targets,” Steve Hutkins, a professor at New York University and founder of Save The Post Office, a blog monitoring the agency, said. “The harms that were done have not yet been undone.”

Last week, US District Court Judge Stanley Bastian of Washington criticized the postmaster general when he temporarily blocked several changes that slowed down mail services, in a nationwide injunction against the USPS. Bastian wrote that the agency was “involved in a politically motivated attack on efficiency.” 

The mail delivery backlogs “likely will slow down delivery of ballots, both to the voters and back to the states” this November, Bastian said, and would “irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election.” 

The injunction comes on the heels of a lawsuit several Democratic state attorneys general brought against the USPS last month over the policy changes. They claimed DeJoy broke the law when he implemented those operational changes that disrupted mail delivery ahead of the 2020 election.

A recent audit from the USPS Inspector General found that more than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections. 

“There are now serious questions about whether it can deliver all the ballots expected during a pandemic this November,” Tiffany Muller, president of Let America Vote, said in a statement earlier this month. “There is no excuse for this. The agency must develop a clear, detailed plan to protect the integrity of our elections.”

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