As many as 20 mail-sorting machines in the Twin Cities have been decommissioned – or could be soon, according to a federal lawsuit that seeks to stop changes to the United States Postal Service ahead of the November election.
According to the lawsuit, "recent changes to USPS facilities and procedures inside or outside of Minnesota have resulted in substantial changes to the time needed to deliver U.S. Mail sent to or from Minnesota addresses."
The suit claims the sorting capacity in the Twin Cities has been reduced by roughly 100,000 to 200,000 pieces of mail per hour, noting 10 letter-sorting machines, which can process 5 million letters per day, have been decommissioned, and another 10 are slated to be.
In Minneapolis, at least three mail-sorting machines have been decommissioned "in the past few months" and six more are scheduled to be decommissioned, the lawsuit claims. Meanwhile, the St. Paul facility, located in Eagan, has "lost the use" of six letter-sorting machines and one flat-sorting machine. It is also scheduled to lose another four letter-sorting machines by the end of August.
This comes as Minnesotans report delays in getting their mail, including receiving medications and absentee ballots for the Aug. 11 primary, the lawsuit says. Minnesota's U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have been receiving complaints about slow mail deliveries, according to the Pioneer Press. And this week, the senators joined Minnesota Secretary of State to talk about the importance of the USPS, KSTP says.
Changes to USPS are of particular concern ahead of the 2020 general election because absentee voters in Minnesota rely on the USPS "more so than voters in many states because Minnesota has no statutory infrastructure regarding ballot drop boxes," meaning there aren't as many alternatives for submitting absentee ballots to election officials.
"If the ballots of Minnesotans who vote absentee are not received by election officials in time for the ballots to be counted in the 2020 November general election, these voters will be disenfranchised," the lawsuit states.
This is especially true in this election cycle when more people will be voting absentee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit says at least 1.2 million Minnesota residents will be voting from home.
Critics blame slow mail delivery on changes implemented by President Donald Trump-appointee Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in recent weeks. It also comes at a time when Trump said he opposes funding the USPS because of mail-in voting.
That being said, DeJoy did say he'll stop making some changes to the post office until after the 2020 election.
For those planning to mail in their ballots this year, the USPS' voting website suggests mailing back a completed ballot at least one week before the state deadline. It also says voters should request their ballot no later than 15 days prior to the election.