Postmaster General of the United States Louis DeJoy is seen on August 5 as he walks to a meeting with Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss the agency's need for emergency funding, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told senators Friday that he's "extremely, highly confident" that the U.S. Postal Service will be able to process all mail-in ballots, even those sent close to Election Day.
Despite his confidence, he warned all Americans who will vote by mail to send in their ballots as soon as possible to avoid delays.
DeJoy appeared before the Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee to defend recent changes to the USPS and address concerns by Democrats that President Donald Trump's administration is attempting to hinder the postal service's ability to deliver absentee ballots for a political advantage.
"We will scour every plant each night leading up to Election Day," he said in response to questioning by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
He said some state deadlines for returning ballots complicates the USPS' ability to process them in a timely manner.
Earlier this month, the USPS warned 46 states and Washington, D.C., that some mail ballots might not be counted in time for the election, saying time frames and deadlines for absentee voting would be "incongruous" with delivery standards.
"As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time," DeJoy said in his opening statement.
"This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day."
Citing financial hardships that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, DeJoy said the USPS is "at fundamental risk" of failing its goals to deliver mail "in an efficient and financially self-sustaining fashion." He also called for a quick infusion of aid to cover the budget gaps exacerbated by the health crisis.
DeJoy said accusations that arose from changes he ordered for the Postal Service -- including the removal of mail sorting machines and cuts to overtime pay -- have been politically motivated.
"I'd like to emphasize that there has been no changes in any policies with regard to election mail for the 2020 election," he testified, adding that he didn't consult with Trump about the changes.
Responding to questioning by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., DeJoy said that though he's placed a hold on changes he was brought in to make at the USPS, there will be multiple cost-cutting measures put in place after the election is over. Those changes include increased pricing, and post office and processing plant closures.
"We are considering dramatic changes to improve the service to the American people, yes," he said, adding that mail delivery is "a very, very competitive market out there now."
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the panel's ranking Democrat, said in his opening statement that DeJoy owes Americans an apology for "harm" he's caused.
"The country is anxious about whether the damage you have inflicted so far can be quickly reversed and what other plans you have in store that could further disrupt or damage reliable, timely delivery from the Postal Service," Peters said.
DeJoy said Tuesday that some of the changes would be delayed until after the Nov. 3 vote, "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail" and pledged the service would be able to handle the expected increase of the volume of mail-in ballots.
The postmaster general, who took office in June, said he will expand a task force on election mail to coordinate with state and local officials and keep retail hours at post offices the same. He also vowed that mail sorting equipment and collection boxes will remain in place, that no mail processing facilities will be closed, and overtime will be approved as needed.
DeJoy also agreed to testify before the House oversight and reform committee on Monday.
Trump has repeatedly denounced voting by mail, claiming that it would invite voter fraud. A study by Stanford University's Democracy and Polarization Lab in April, though, found that mail-in voting doesn't favor one political party over another, nor does it invite more frequent incidents of fraud.
Trump himself regularly votes by mail in Florida.
A Gallup poll released in April indicated that 70% of Americans favor allowing all registered voters to vote by mail.