The U.S. Postal Service will stop removing mailboxes across the country for 90 days, a spokeswoman said Sunday in the wake of protests arguing that the action was part of President Donald Trump’s attempt to influence the outcome of the upcoming election.
“Given the recent customer concerns, the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for a period of 90 days while we evaluate our customers’ concerns,” Postal Service spokeswoman Kim Frum said in a statement to CNN.
Reports about the removals forced the service to walk back its policy in Western states on Friday. By Sunday, ongoing protests against what was seen as a blatant voter suppression effort led the Postal Service to extend its 90-day moratorium to the rest of the country.
The net effect is that mailboxes will remain in place until after the November election.
Despite the agency’s assurances, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said later Sunday she would recall the chamber early to vote on legislation meant to protect the Postal Service before the election.
“Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the President,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues. She added: “In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central. Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote.”
The House was not scheduled to return until Sept. 14, but the vote on the Postal Service legislation will likely take place Saturday.
The Postal Service said earlier that it was removing mailboxes in some communities because of “declining mail volume.” But Americans are expected to vote by mail in unusually high numbers in the upcoming election because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has spent the last several months baselessly attacking mail-in voting as “fraudulent.” (He installed Louis DeJoy, a major campaign donor, to lead the Postal Service this year.)
Trump on Friday appeared to admit that he opposed more funding for the Postal Service because “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
The Postal Service recently warned 46 states that it cannot guarantee all mailed ballots will be delivered in time to be counted.
The Postal Service under DeJoy has also removed mail sorting machines from postal facilities around the country to the dismay of concerned postal workers and Americans who rely on timely delivery.
But White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday said, “Sorting machines between now and Election Day will not be taken offline.”
Critics have argued that voter suppression is the cornerstone of the Trump campaign’s reelection strategy. In addition to the Postal Service’s actions, the campaign has filed lawsuits challenging states’ voting rights as they conduct mail-in voting.
Losing such lawsuits over mail-in voting poses his “biggest risk” to reelection, Trump said.
Trump said in March that he opposed a Democratic proposal to increase funding to assist mail-in voting because mail-in votes don’t help Republicans.
“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said about the proposal. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”