COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s hard to come up with a consensus to problems with the U.S. Postal Service that Ohio members of Congress can agree on — mainly because they disagree on whether there’s really that much of a new problem.
“My district and D.C. Offices have been inundated with calls,” said Columbus-area Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty. “Moreover, we have received more than a thousand emails from constituents concerned with the present condition of the postal service.”
Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, surveyed residents of his northwest Ohio congressional district this month about mail service. About 86% of those responding, 3,015 persons, said they had experienced delays or challenges receiving their mail.
In northeast Ohio, Democrat Tim Ryan of Niles said, “We’ve heard from many small business owners, seniors, and veterans who are concerned about delays — especially about their life-saving medications.”
Others, however, report hearing only a handful of concerns. Columbus Republican Steve Stivers, for example, said his office has handled three complaints in each of the past two years.
As with many current controversies, President Trump is near the center of this one — especially his oft-stated distrust of voting by mail. Ohio and other states expect a record number of absentee ballots cast by mail — as Trump and his wife do — this year as fears about COVID-19 stretch into the early voting period.
“President Trump is afraid he’s going to lose and will do anything to try to undermine our election, even if it means people don’t get their prescriptions or mail as a result,” said Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
“His dangerous rhetoric — and his own admission that his refusal to support funding for the USPS is purely political — are a reflection of his own fears about his reelection chances.”
Sen. Rob Portman and nine of Ohio’s 12 GOP members of the House signed a letter this week urging Postmaster General and USPS CEO Louis DeJoy to work with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose “to implement procedures that will ensure the timely and accurate delivery of election-related materials in November’s election.”
The USPS already has informed Ohio it likely won’t be able to deliver ballots in time to voters who wait until the deadline — noon the Saturday before the election — to ask for one. The ballots must be postmarked before Election Day or delivered in person on that Tuesday.
Many of those in Washington urged Ohioans to get their absentee ballot applications submitted early. While voters can apply now, the actual ballots will be mailed in early October.
But what should happen now on the Postal Service an open question. A U.S. Senate panel is holding a hearing Friday, while a House committee has one set for Monday. The House is meeting Saturday to consider additional funding.
Portman noted that the CARES Act, which he supported, provided $10 billion in borrowing authority for the Postal Service to help ensure it meets its operating obligations.
“I also support providing additional resources for the agency to help with the timely delivery of mail during the ongoing pandemic and the upcoming election,” he said.
Some expressed satisfaction that DeJoy has postponed further changes until after the Nov. 3 election.
Not good enough, says Brown.
“Trump and his administration need to reinstate the sorting machines they’ve taken away, replace the ones they’ve dismantled, return the mailboxes they’ve removed, and ensure USPS staffing is sufficient to deliver mail in a timely way,” he said.
“Republicans need to stop playing political games and work with Democrats to make sure the USPS has the funding it needs to deliver the mail and allow for mail-in voting.”
One thing Ohio’s delegation agreed on was the reliability of Ohio’s absentee voting system, despite Trump’s criticism that mail ballots will lead to fraudulent results and possibly even the need for a second election.