July 21, 2020 / 4:05 PM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 2-House Democrats press U.S. Postal Service on plans to delay mail

(Adds USPS comment about mail-in ballots, Trump tweet)

WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - Senior Democrats on a House of Representatives oversight committee wrote to the new postmaster general on Monday to press him on reports the service was prepared to delay mail delivery if needed to cut costs, a move that could affect mail-in ballot results.

The U.S. Postal Service's losses have soared even as it has become more critical to the U.S. economy as consumers, confined to their homes because of the coronavirus, shop online. A determination to avoid crowds will also mean that voting by mail will be more popular this November.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump supporter who took office in June, has detailed changes to the service that include eliminating overtime, even if it means delayed mail delivery.

"While these changes in a normal year would be drastic, in a presidential election year when many states are relying heavily on absentee mail-in ballots, increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner — an unacceptable outcome for a free and fair election," wrote Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The letter was also signed by Representatives Gerald Connolly, Stephen Lynch and Brenda Lawrence.

Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said that the service's tight finances would not affect ballot delivery.

"We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all election mail, including ballots," he said in an email statement.

"As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting and will continue to proactively conduct outreach with state and local election officials and secretaries of state."

President Donald Trump has been critical of mail-in ballots, arguing that they will result in voter fraud. He reiterated that in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

The Postal Service has been struggling as email and social media have replaced letters. It is funded through services and postage.

Trump has frequently criticized the post office, saying it charges too little to deliver packages sent by online retailers such as Amazon.com, whose founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

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