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USPS halts removal of collection boxes

A man walks by a set of USPS collection boxes March 20 in New York City. The USPS said it will re-evaluate the removal of some mail collection boxes after Election Day. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A man walks by a set of USPS collection boxes March 20 in New York City. The USPS said it will re-evaluate the removal of some mail collection boxes after Election Day. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. Postal Service spokesman said the agency will stop taking down mail collection boxes until after Election Day.

Rod Spurgeon told NBC News and CNN of the policy change after the USPS faced criticism for removing the boxes. Some Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., accused the agency of operating under the Trump administration to suppress mail-in voting.

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"We are not going to be removing any boxes," Spurgeon said late Friday. "After the election, we're going to take a look at operations and see what we need and don't need."

The USPS began the collection box removal process earlier in the week, targeting boxes in Indiana, Montana, New York and Oregon.

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USPS Portland Seattle region spokesman Ernie Swanson told Willamette Week the boxes were removed because of declining mail volume.

"Ever since the pandemic came along, people are mailing less for some reason," he said.

Critics, though, said fewer collection boxes mean fewer locations for people to drop off their mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election.

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"Donald Trump isn't *trying* to sabotage our elections. He's doing it right under our noses. This is voter suppression and Senate Republicans are letting him get away with it," Wyden tweeted Friday.

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The USPS warned 46 states and Washington, D.C., that some mail-in ballots might not be counted in time for the election. The agency told the states their time frames and deadlines for mail-in voting would be "incongruous" with delivery standards, meaning some ballots might not arrive in time to be counted.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has said he opposed funding the financially struggling postal service because it would benefit those who seek to promote mail-in voting in November.

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He and first lady Melania Trump just requested main-in ballots from the Palm Beach County, Fla., supervisor of elections' office, the Palm Beach Post reported Friday. The president and his wife have declared Florida to be their home state.

Democrats, in particular, have called for mail-in voting as a way to protect voters from the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day.

Trump has long opposed mail-in voting, saying it's too vulnerable to fraud.

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"They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said Thursday.

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"Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting," he added. "They just can't have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing."

He backtracked on his comments later Thursday, saying he would sign a stimulus package that includes $25 billion for the agency, but only if Democrats give Republicans what they want in the relief legislation.

"Sure, if they gave us what we want. And it's not what I want, it's what the American people want," Trump said during a Friday news conference.

The financially struggling USPS has been undergoing an organizational overhaul, including removing mail sorting machines from facilities across the country, some of which would normally be used to sort mail-in ballots, Vice reported.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the USPS still has "ample capacity" to handle the expected surge of mail-in ballots.

"The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes," USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told Vice.

"Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost-effective operations and better service for our customers."

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DeJoy, a Trump donor who was tapped to run the USPS three months ago, also has curtailed overtime at the agency, leading to delays in deliveries.

On Saturday protesters gathered outside DeJoy's Washington, D.C. home, carrying signs reading "Don't mess with the USPS" and "Don't stamp out our democracy." It is not clear whether he was home at the time.

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