DC’s Mayor Bowser raises concerns about USPS as general election approaches

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that she has several concerns about the upcoming general election, emphasizing worries about how inefficient the U.S. Postal Service could be in delivering mail-in ballots.

During a news conference, Bowser said voters should brace for an attack on mail-in voting due to all the changes made to USPS.

“We have no control over what happens with the U.S. Postal Service,” Bowser said. “So, we have to make sure we have a robust [system] and robust opportunities for people to vote in other ways.”

Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the Postal Service has cut back on deliveries amid cost-cutting measures, such as eliminating overtime pay and holding mail over if distribution centers are late. The agency warned several states last week that it cannot guarantee all ballots sent by mail would arrive on time to be counted in the November election.

“I think that we are seeing unprecedented voter suppression efforts taking place in real problems with people trying to slow mail or stop mail or prevent people from having access,” Bowser said.

D.C. is coming off a tough primary Election Day during which some voters waited hours in line at the polls to vote, with many saying they never received a mail-in ballot. Bowser said she waited over more than two hours to cast her ballot in person during the primary.

The city’s Board of Elections is an independent entity not run by Bowser’s administration, but the mayor’s office vets each member before being approved by the D.C. Council. The board has already said it plans to increase the number of poll workers for Election Day and improve its technology to meet the demand of absentee ballots.

Bowser said she is willing to engage in conversations with the council and the board in recruiting poll workers available for the city’s 144 polling sites.

Citing the city’s success in hiring contact tracers for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor said “a core of government workers” would be available for early voting days and Election Day.

When asked about her thoughts on the lack of experience on the current Board of Elections, Bowser instead restated her concerns about mail-in voting, saying that it would be “hard to say that a board member is responsible for an error and a piece of mail.”

Overall, Bowser said it is more important to give residents multiple ways to vote during the general election and not limit their options.

“We can have ideas about how people should vote and what we want them to do,” Bowser said. “But people are going to decide how they want to vote. So we can come up with an elaborate vote by mail system, and there still will be people who want to vote in person.”

Jose Umana

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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