Neal Says House Bill Will Prevent Changes in Postal Service
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal used the U.S. Postal Service facility on Fenn Street as a background to underscore the vote he plans to make on Saturday to ensure reliable voting by mail.
"Ballot access in a representative democracy is fundamental and some of the proposed changes ... seem to me to as though they hint strongly at voter suppression," Neal said, with state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier beside him.
Specifically, Neal was in the Berkshires to discuss the Delivering for America Act, which would prohibit the Postal Service from making changes to operations and services in place on Jan. 1, 2020. The bill would reverse organizational and structural changes made by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
"I think we are going to push back on what the postmaster and the president have proposed in terms of eliminating opportunities for people to vote," Neal said. "I think he has been very clear about it."
Louis DeJoy was appointed in June and, according to Neal, has taken actions in step with President Donald Trump to limit mail-in voting. Democrats have accused the administration of working to hamper the Postal Service's ability to handle what's expected to be a high volume of mailed ballots for the presidential election in November.
The House will be in session this Saturday to vote on the measure; DeJoy and the chairman of the Postal Services board of governors have been called testify on Friday in the Senate and on Monday in the House about cost-cutting measures that have included the removal of sorting equipment and mailboxes and the reduction of overtime and services. The inspector general has opened an investigation in the wake of mail delays.
On Tuesday, DeJoy said in a statement that "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."
Neal said 40 percent of Americans may decide to cast their ballot through the mail. He said the president himself has voted by mail and instead of hamstringing the post office, services should be expanded.
"The president has cast his ballots through the mail in the past. His family has cast their ballots in the mail in the past," the Springfield congressman said. "There are Republican states and Democratic states that have embraced mail-in voting, and it has occurred without even a small hitch. It is an accepted part of extending the franchise."
He said a form of mail-in voting took place during the Civil War and soldiers on the battlefield participated in the 1864 election.
"The idea of absentee ballots in the Civil War and through pandemics. It has been fortified in American history," he said. "We have done this in the past, and the suggestion that if you do mail-in voting it will be fraudulent is not true."
Neal said tampering with the U.S. Postal Service could also disrupt prescription deliveries. Also, proposed changes could affect those who receive Social Security checks through the mail; about 850,000 Social Security and Supplemental Security Income are still mailed.
Farley-Bouvier who thanked the congressman for fighting for the post office. She encouraged others to do the same.
"We need to be loud, and we need to be concerned about how we are going to solve the problem of the post office," she said. "The postal service is being absolutely taken out by its knees by this president who is so scared of losing an election that he is willing to dismantle one of the most important institutions that we have in this country."
Hinds said Massachusetts has already taken "big steps forward" in vote by mail.
"We made a very clear choice in a time of a global pandemic. The best way to protect democracy is to protect voters, poll workers, and to make sure we have a robust vote by mail system," Hinds said. "So we have done quite a bit ... and to have this notion that it could be undermined by this president is counterintuitive to anything that we believe in as legislators."
Neal also had stakeholders at his side including Kenneth Singer, president and CEO of Berkshire County Arc, who said the nonprofit agency's Zip 'N Sort Mail Services works closely with the post office.
"They do everything they can to support us and we need to be there to support them," he said. "This is really important."
Council on Aging Chairwoman Theresa Bianchi noted the Postal Service is important to the city's growing elderly population.
"The one solid thing that they count on during this health crisis was their mail and to have that disassembled is simply unconscionable," she said.
Radio host Bill Sturgeon said as a disabled veteran he relies on the mail for prescription deliveries.
"I get all of my medication through the mail. Everything from insulin to heart medication, to lung medication," he said. "Really and truly we can't mess with the post office."
Neal said he plans to head back to Washington on Friday and that his colleagues plan to put their collective "foot down."
"The speaker's proposal now is taking form and ... one of the things we are doing in the HEROES Act, we offered up to $25 billion for Postal Service work," he said. "That is all-encompassing. It would also try to postpone some of the rearranging and restructuring that the postmaster general has attempted to suggest."
He added that it was "unreasonable" to make these changes going into a national election, which like the last one could be close.
More specific to Pittsfield, Farley-Bouvier encouraged all residents to find a way to vote.
"To those concerned about their ballots be concerned but you walk over broken glass and hot coals, if you have to, to vote," she said. "Or go down a block and half down the street to City Hall to the drop box."