A mail processor was recently removed from the White River Junction U.S. Postal Service plant, one of two facilities that sort mail in Vermont.
Only one processing machine is now left at the Upper Valley location, and last weekend that device broke down. Postal workers were forced to sort and process pieces of mail by hand, significantly delaying delivery of mail, according to a statement issued by the Vermont congressional delegation Tuesday evening.
Rep. Peter Welch and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy have demanded that the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy install a new AFCS 200 cancellation machine at the Vermont facility immediately. The Vermont delegation sent a letter to DeJoy Tuesday condemning the way the Trump administration is playing politics with the electoral system during Covid and demanding a response by Oct. 16. The mail-in ballot system is a critical option for voters who do not want to contract the virus or spread the contagious disease to poll workers.
“While we have been promised for months that a new AFCS 200 cancellation machine will be installed, we have just learned that this will not occur until January of 2021 at the earliest,” they wrote in a joint press release. “This timing is both unacceptable and another example of this administration’s attempt to sabotage the Postal Service and the 2020 election.”
The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office has mailed ballots to every registered Vermont voter. Ballot returns have already broken records and are expected to continue to be heavy as the unofficial deadline for mail-in ballots, Oct. 24, nears. Ballots can also be brought to polling stations on Nov. 3.
“Waiting until 2021 to get this new machine to Vermont will present undue harm to the hundreds of thousands of Vermonters who have been given the ability to vote by mail by November 3rd as well as Vermont’s seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities who rely on the Postal Service for the delivery of their prescriptions,” the Vermont delegation wrote.
Maureen Marion, the communications director for the Northeast region, said her office is trying to confirm the information from the Vermont delegation and could not comment at this time.
Secretary of State Jim Condos said he had not been made aware of the equipment removal or sorting issues at the White River Junction facility.
“I really can’t comment without more information other than to say that it would be disappointing if true,” Condos said in a statement.
“We have been assured by the USPS that Vermont election mail would be handled as a high priority, and we expect that to happen. The USPS has a responsibility to ensure mail is delivered in a timely fashion, especially for an election being conducted during a pandemic.”
Condos said he joined the call of the congressional delegation “to properly resource our hardworking VT USPS staff so that they can accomplish their jobs effectively and efficiently.”