Postal Service emerges as flash point heading into election

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FILE - In this July 31, 2020, file photo, letter carriers load mail trucks for deliveries at a U.S. Postal Service facility in McLean, Va. The success of the 2020 presidential election could come down to a most unlikely government agency: the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTONMail piling up. Constant attacks from the president. Cuts to overtime as record numbers of ballots are expected to pass through post offices this fall.

The success of the 2020 presidential election could hinge on a most unlikely government agency: the U.S. Postal Service. Current signs are not promising.

The Postal Service already was facing questions over how it would handle the expected spike of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, but several operational changes imposed by its new leader have led to mail backlogs across the United States as rumors of additional cutbacks swirl, fueling worries about the November vote.

“It seems like they're just trying to turn customers away from the post office,” said Jim Sizemore, president of the American Postal Workers Union chapter in the Cincinnati region. He said his offices are behind on deliveries because of new rules specifying when mail can go out.

The pandemic has forced states to expand voting by mail as a safe alternative to in-person polling places. Some states are opting to send ballots to voters or allowing people to use fear of the virus as a reason to cast an absentee ballot. That's led to predictions of an an unprecedented amount of mail voting in the presidential election.

Trailing in the polls, President Donald Trump has been sowing public distrust in the Postal Service’s ability to adequately deliver ballots and has, without evidence, said allowing more people to vote by mail will result in rampant corruption.

The agency's new leader, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO and a major donor to Trump and other Republicans, has pushed cost-cutting measures to eliminate overtime pay and hold mail until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late.

DeJoy, 63, of North Carolina, was tapped to head the service by a Trump-appointed board of governors and started in June. He is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.