COCHISE COUNTY — State postal officials said Tuesday that local post offices have not been affected by the cuts recently made in the United States Postal Service and that voting by mail will be safe and ballots will not be delayed.
The changes launched by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — removing sorting machines from post offices and removing collection mailboxes have sparked outrage across the country.
DeJoy has pushed back against the allegations and other claims, including that he has cut overtime for the service.
The uproar, according to the Associated Press, prompted DeJoy to tell the U.S. Senate last week that his “No. 1 priority is to ensure election mail arrives on time.”
DeJoy also assured lawmakers that retail hours at post offices would not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes would remain intact and no mail processing facilities would be closed.
But DeJoy, according to the Associated Press, also stated that he would not restore the cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment that have already been made.
The changes have not made a dent in Cochise County, where there are at least 18 post offices. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Rod Spurgeon and postal officials at some of the county’s post offices said they have not been affected by cuts from the federal level.
“They should not have been affected,” Spurgeon said Tuesday. “There are no processing or sorting machines in any of those post offices, only in Phoenix. No blue collection boxes have been removed from any of the post offices.”
Postal officials in Naco, Bowie and Tombstone and Sierra Vista agreed, saying they have their blue collection boxes and have had no issues with delayed mail or problems with the mail-in ballots cast in the primary election. Other Cochise County postal officials contacted by the Herald/Review declined comment and referred the newspaper to Spurgeon.
Spurgeon said that people can rely on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their mail-in ballots on time.
“We have a great process,” Spurgeon said. “People can be confident that their mail-in ballots will be processed and received on time.”
Spurgeon could not say with any certainty whether any sorting machines had been removed from the USPS processing plant in Phoenix. He said that at one time there were 50 such machines at the facility.
Messages from the Herald/Review were left at the American Postal Workers Union in Tucson for confirmation on the situation locally, but calls Monday and Tuesday were not returned.
In a livestream Sunday however, Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, was not on board with DeJoys’ changes.
“The mail has slowed down.,” he said, reciting the U.S. Postal Service’s promises of prompt, reliable and efficient service.
“He (DeJoy) has arbitrarily reduced the hours employees are working,” Dimondstein said. “The people of this country support the postal service. It’s non-partisan.”
Dimondstein said COVID-19 has led to more people voting by mail.
“That’s the only way some people can vote,” Dimondstein said.
At a recent protest featured several American Postal Workers Union members from Tucson marching with signs that read, “U.S. Mail Not For Sale.”
During the protest, U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva, (D-AZ) said that 70 to 80 percent of the people in Tucson and Pima County are expected to vote by mail.
This past Saturday, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) voted to pass H.R. 8015, the Delivering for America Act. The bill would require the Postal Service to return to operations and levels of service that were in place on January 1, 2020. It also would mandate all election mail to be treated as First-Class mail and provides $25 billion in critical funding.
The bill passed the House and is headed to the Senate, where Republican leadership has declared it dead on arrival.
Meanwhile, election officials in some states including Arizona have ordered more ballot drop boxes as a way to skirt the post office. Cochise County has six at the moment, including two in Sierra Vista. The ballot drop boxes are usually placed outside of public places such as community centers, libraries and city halls.
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens said they’ve been around at least two years.
“Ballot drop off boxes were used in Cochise County for the first time during the 2018 primary and general election. They are in place for the 2020 election,” Stevens said.
He also said ballots could be dropped off “any time during the early voting period at the Recorder’s office on Melody Lane in Bisbee.”
Chief Deputy Recorder Heather Lopez said Tuesday that Cochise County does not plan on purchasing any more ballot drop boxes because of “security reasons.”
The six that are in place now around the county are inside government buildings, Lopez said, and many of those buildings are still closed because of the pandemic.
“We don’t just want them out there,” Lopez said.
Stevens said the county recorder’s office is prepared for the November election.
“We are taking every foreseeable precaution with respect to the USPS,” Stevens said. “We have open communications with the local and statewide post offices. We have and use mail tracking software to help identify issues.”
“If anyone has concerns about their ballot being counted I would suggest either voting early in the Recorder’s office, or voting on election day at one of the vote centers throughout the county,” he said.