Senator Johnson Must Investigate Potential Voter Suppression Tactics by USPS, DHS

Washington — Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Chairman, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), should hold oversight hearings into apparent attempts by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suppress voter participation and intimidate people exercising their First Amendment rights, according to a letter sent today to Chairman Johnson by Common Cause Wisconsin and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Recent actions taken by USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, including decisions that will delay prioritizing mail delivery and to deploy heavily armed federal guards to peaceful protests, pose a threat to the safety and security of the upcoming 2020 general election.

Immediately following reports that USPS failed to deliver absentee ballots in a timely manner for the Wisconsin primary held in April, Chairman Johnson called for an investigative report into the matter. A report released in July by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) acknowledged that while USPS “generally followed its procedures for processing and delivering ballots” in the Wisconsin primary, there was a need “to improve communication and coordination between the Postal Service and election offices and strengthen adherence to procedures.”

Simultaneously, while USPS OIG found that “there is an expected increase in the number of Americans who will choose to vote by mail and avoid in-person voting,” Postmaster General DeJoy has taken actions that could undermine USPS support of voting by mail. According to internal USPS memos, DeJoy directed USPS employees that overtime would be limited and prohibited them from making late mail delivery trips, masquerading these decisions as a way to cut costs. USPS acknowledged that these memoranda will likely result in delayed mail delivery for a period of time. Common Cause Wisconsin and CREW’s letter calls for HSGAC to use its authority to determine whether USPS is proactively addressing the increased national demand for voting by mail this November, and how the Postmaster General’s plans for cutting back overtime could impact voting by mail.

Common Cause Wisconsin and CREW also urged the committee to hold additional oversight hearings and investigate DHS’s decision to deploy heavily armed federal agents to American cities to quell political protests over the objection of local elected officials. These actions have prompted concerns from local elected officials that the Trump administration’s actions using DHS agents could be used to intimidate voters across the country in the upcoming election. DHS agents’ presence and use of aggressive tactics fall squarely within the committee’s power and jurisdiction to assert congressional oversight and demand accountability.

“We urge you to take swift and prompt action including holding public hearings with Postmaster General DeJoy regarding USPS and voting by mail, and with Acting Secretary Wolf regarding the deployment of federal agents to American cities. Your constituents and the American public deserve to learn more about the deeply troubling decisions being made at these federal agencies and their impact on citizens’ access to the vote in November,” the letter said.

The United States Postal Service announced in May that DeJoy would be serving as the next Postmaster General. In June, CREW requested documents regarding voting by mail between USPS employees and DeJoy, the USPS Board of Governors, the previous Postmaster General Megan Brennan, along with other various entities.

Click here to read the letter.