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Politics & Government

Sen. Wyden Visits Ashland To Warn Of Postal Service Slowdown

Erik Neumann/JPR
Sen. Ron Wyden spoke about his concerns of delayed postal services ahead of the vote-by-mail election in November.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was in Ashland on Tuesday sounding the alarm about the condition of the U.S. Postal Service and what it could mean for the coming vote-by-mail election.

Standing across from the post office in downtown Ashland, Wyden said recent changes at the Postal Service including reduced postal employee overtime, shortened post office hours, and removed mail processing equipment amount to voter suppression.

Those changes taken together, he said, will make it harder for people to cast their votes.

Those plans were paused by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday under widespread criticism, but it didn’t stop Wyden from going after him.

“I’ve called for the Postmaster General’s removal, I’ve asked for the Inspector General investigation which is now underway, I’m making the case that we need to have more drop boxes all over this country,” Wyden said.

Oregon has been a vote-by-mail state since 1996, the year Wyden was elected as the first Senator in an entirely vote-by-mail election.

Postal trucks Ashland edited.jpg
Erik Neumann/JPR
Postal Service employees load trucks at the Ashland post office on Tuesday.

Wyden said his office has received accounts of mail deliveries taking longer than expected in Oregon.

“There has been plans announced to remove mail processing equipment from the Medford mail processing plant, which certainly speaks to a potential slowdown,” said Jeremy Schilling, president of the Postal Workers Union Local 342. But, he said, those changes have not taken effect. “There has not been an active slowdown locally as of yet.”

Schilling says the proposed equipment removal appears to be part of a long-term trend with the Postal Service, rather than part of the new federal cuts.

“It’s unique if you look at the entire history of the Postal Service, but not that unique if you look at the last 20 years of the Postal Service,” Schilling said.

A potential mail slowdown also posed concerns about access to life-saving drugs, according to Courtney Wilson, vice president of medical affairs and an emergency physician with Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. She said some insurers require people to get their medications through the mail because they’re cheaper that way.

“So, if you’re a patient who has to get your prescriptions by mail, and you have no choice, then you may run into a situation where you necessarily run out of your medications if they’re not delivered in a timely fashion,” Wilson said.

Postmaster General DeJoy will testify about the Postal Service delays and proposed budget cuts before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Friday.