Two of the 10 mail sorting machines at the U.S. Postal Service’s Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough were removed prior to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s comments Tuesday that he would suspend all operational changes until after the November election.

One of the machines was dismantled entirely; the other was sent to the processing center in Hampden to replace an older machine there, according to Mark Seitz, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 92.

Seitz said even though DeJoy indicated all changes are suspended going forward, they won’t apply retroactively.

“The damage is done,” he said. “Those machines aren’t coming back.”

DeJoy confirmed as much to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday.

“During our conversation, he admitted he has no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other infrastructure that have been removed,” Pelosi said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, called the removal of the two machines in Scarborough a “dangerous move.”

“There is no rational explanation that any mail sorting machines would be secretly thrown in the trash,” Pingree said in a statement. “I have heard from my colleagues that hundreds have been destroyed around the country. But on the heels of President Trump’s assertion last week that he was deliberately blocking support to USPS, this report calls into further question the Trump administration’s attempts to hinder voting-by-mail and destabilize our elections.”

Already, there have been mail delays in Maine related to changes in USPS policies under DeJoy. This month, more than 80,000 pieces of mail were delivered late after trucks failed to wait an extra 10 minutes for the mail to be sorted. And Maine farmers who regularly order live chicks through the postal service said many of the chicks they’ve ordered recently are arriving dead because they were apparently mishandled, leading to large financial losses.

Last Friday, the postal service warned 46 states – including Maine – that it could not guarantee timely delivery of absentee ballots in the November election, and it urged some states to change deadlines for ballot requests or take other steps to provide more delivery time.

Seitz said that with two of the sorting machines in Scarborough gone, he worries that late deliveries of mail could continue.

“The more mail you have, the more machines you need, and we’ve now lost 20 percent of our processing power,” he said.

Each machine can sort 36,000 letters per hour and, even if the machines are not at capacity now, they will be as the economy picks up, Seitz said.

“At Christmas time, it’s hard to handle letter mail now with the 10 machines,” he said. “And all ballots are letter mail, so the potential is definitely there for that to be delayed too.”

Scott Adams, president of the American Post Workers Union Local 458, said all the changes to service that have been made were predicated on bad data.

“They are using data at the lowest point. Of course the boxes are empty right now. Of course machines aren’t processing as much,” he said. “But they’re making radical permanent decisions based on this.”

Asked about the removal of the two machines in Scarborough, regional USPS spokesman Stephen Doherty referred to the postmaster general’s statement on Tuesday.

“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day.”

He made clear that retail hours at Post Offices will not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are and no mail processing facilities will be closed. But, as some have pointed out and as DeJoy admitted to Pelosi on Wednesday, what’s done is done.

U.S. Sen Angus King, I-Maine, said DeJoy’s statement was good news, but he’s “not ready to call the matter closed.”

“We need to see these policies being reversed in practice, not just in word – and we need answers from the Postmaster General,” the senator said in a statement.

DeJoy is scheduled to appear Friday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Some states have filed lawsuits. Some Democrats, including Pingree, have called for his resignation.

“Mainers rely on their mail delivery for packages, bills, medicines, and their ballots so attacks on the U.S. Postal Service endanger democracy and peoples’ lives,” she said. “Mainers deserve answers now and any changes slowing mail delivery must be reversed. And the architect of these changes, Postmaster DeJoy, should resign immediately.”

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have supported funding for the USPS, which has experienced financial struggles for years that have only worsened during the pandemic.

The House already approved $25 billion in funding for the Post Office as part of the Heroes Act, a pandemic relief bill, that passed in May but has been sitting in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The House is prepared to vote Saturday on a stand-alone bill that would provide the $25 billion in emergency funding and would require USPS to treat election mail as First Class mail and explicitly reverse any changes already made that delay mail delivery. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has cosponsored a similar bill in the Senate that has yet to be voted on.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.