After Postal Service Won’t Automatically Consider Election Mail as First Class Mail, Tester Slams Decision to Make it Harder for Montanans to Vote

Senator: “Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten in-person voting, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pushing back on the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) attempts to disenfranchise Montanans this November by not automatically considering election mail to be First Class mail – a move that could slow down vote by mail by multiple days and significantly increase costs for states. President Trump said today that he opposed emergency funding for the USPS and election operations because it would make it easier for Americans to vote by mail.

Tester joined a group of his colleagues in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging the USPS to reverse this and any other action that makes it harder or more expensive for Montanans to vote by mail.

“Since you assumed the role of Postmaster General, there have been disturbing reports regarding changes at USPS that are causing significant delays in the delivery of mail,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem – during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic. Instead of taking steps to increase your agency’s ability to deliver for the American people, you are implementing policy changes that make matters worse, and the Postal Service is reportedly considering changes that would increase costs for states at a time when millions of Americans are relying on voting by mail to exercise their right to vote.”

According to news reports, the USPS has told state election officials that it will not automatically consider election mail as First Class mail, a shift from past elections that will cause further delays to election mail. The policy change would disenfranchise voters, increasing concerns that voters would not receiving their ballot by election day or causing them to be returned after the deadline. This is especially dangerous in states like Montana, which require ballots to be returned – not postmarked – by election day.

Changing the First Class mail policy would also increase cost for Montana and other states that cover the cost of return postage for ballots and who are already facing budget shortfalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeJoy also recently reorganized top leadership at the USPS and has reportedly undertaken other policy changes that will lead to slower and less reliable mail delivery.

“As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail,” Tester and his colleagues continued. “Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail.”

Tester has prioritized making sure the USPS has the resources it needs to continue its vital mail delivery services during the pandemic. He recently introduced bipartisan legislation to provide $25 billion in emergency assistance to help the agency recoup pandemic related losses and other operational expenses, and has pushed Senate leadership to make significant emergency investments in the USPS a part of any new coronavirus aid package, as well as to provide support and protective equipment for the agency’s employees.

Read Tester’s letter HERE.