New reports of US Postal Service workers hauling away mailboxes in flatbed trucks and locking shut convenient drop slots have caused widespread concerns among Oregon residents about mail-in voting during the presidential election in November.
Photos that spread across social media in recent weeks showed truck beds stacked with dropbox mailboxes — large, blue Postal Service boxes in which mail can be dropped off on the side of the road without having to visit a Post Office.
The Postal Service confirmed some mailboxes have been removed from neighbourhoods in recent weeks, The Oregonian reported, with residents in Eugene and Portland alerting the local newspaper their access to contactless USPS mailing options have become increasingly limited just ahead of the crucial vote.
Ernie Swanson, spokesperson for the USPS, told the publication that “duplicate” boxes were being removed from regions with multiple collection boxes, alleging “first-class mail volume has declined significantly in the US, especially since the pandemic” and noting how that “translates to less mail in collection boxes”.
While the USPS spokesperson said the removal of some mailboxes “shouldn’t affect people at all”, residents said they were quickly losing access to ways they can send mail without potentially risking their health amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Jacob Strouckel, a resident of Eugene, told The Oregonian “outbound slits in neighbourhood mailboxes are being locked shut” in an email, writing: “We are not just losing access to roadside mail dropboxes, but our convenient neighbourhood drop slots.”
He added: “This applies to neighbourhoods without individual mailboxes, so we are unable to send outbound mail from our area, without finding a roadside mailbox or risking a trip to the post office.”
The news comes after one of President Donald Trump's donors, Louis DeJoy, was appointed to serve as the new postmaster general despite not having any experience working in the Postal Service.
Mr DeJoy announced sweeping changes to the Postal Service that included cutting overtime and holding mail when offices are understaffed, causing some to fear the new policies may cause significant delays in the mail-in voting process at a time when much of the country plans to vote by mail.
Mr Trump has also threatened to withhold emergency funding and election assistance from the Postal Service, while discussing his apparent attempts to curb nationwide mail-in voting during the pandemic in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
"They want $25 billion — billion — for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," he said. "Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting ... because they're not equipped."
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