WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he did not know how many people voted by mail in the 2016 election during an often-combative hearing about controversial changes at the Postal Service Democrats fear could hinder the agency’s ability to handle a surge of mail-in ballots this November.
When quizzed about postal stamp rates, DeJoy said he didn’t know the cost for a postcard or a square greeting card, though he did know the rate for a first-class mail stamp.
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., used her allotted time during the House Oversight Committee hearing to pepper the Postmaster General with questions about basic Postal Service operations.
“Mr. DeJoy, what is the cost of a first-class postage stamp?” she asked.
“55 cents,” DeJoy replied.
“Just wanted to check. What about to mail a postcard?” Porter asked?
“I don’t know,” DeJoy replied. The current cost of a postcard stamp is $0.35, according to the Postal Service.
“I’ll submit that I know very little about postage stamps,” he said when asked about the cost of mailing a greeting card in a square envelope. The Postal Service says postage for a square envelope is $0.70.
Porter continued to press the Postmaster General, asking him if he knew how many Americans voted by mail in the 2016 presidential election “within a million or so,” or even “to the nearest ten million.”
“I would be guessing,” he said, “and I don’t want to guess.”
“I’m concerned about your understanding of this agency,” Porter shot back.
According to the US Election Assistance Commission, 24% of voters voted by mail in 2016, or roughly 33.6 million of the 140,114,502 people who voted in the 2016 presidential election.
A new survey found 37% of registered voters were likely to vote by mail this year. Many states expanded voting by mail to reduce crowds on Election Day and provide an alternative to in-person voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As postal delays mounted across the country over the past two months, the Postal Service became part of a political firestorm ahead of the November elections. Some Democrats accused President Donald Trump of trying to undermine the Postal Service because of his opposition to vote by mail and have called for DeJoy’s resignation.
More on DeJoy’s testimony:Trump’s Postmaster General DeJoy commits to delivering election mail on time, slams ‘false narrative’
DeJoy slammed what he called a “false narrative” that he made changes at the Postal Service to disrupt the delivery of election mail. The operational changes and delivery schedule changes, he said, were necessary for the Postal Service to move toward a “path of sustainability” given its dire financial situation.
The Postmaster General told lawmakers some of the service delays were caused by inadequate staffing, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect Postal Service operations. He said 83 Postal Service workers had died from COVID-19.
Porter posted on Twitter earlier in the day she hoped the Postmaster General had come prepared for the hearing.
After the hearing finished, though, she quipped on Twitter, “Spoiler alert: he did not.”