Less than three months before the November presidential election, a national battle is playing out over the future of the U.S. Postal Service and its ability to process mail-in ballots.
Postal worker union members say mailboxes have been removed from locations in the Bronx and mail is piling up as well. At stake, critics fear that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted in the upcoming election.
Over the weekend, dozens of blue mailboxes were seen discarded behind a post office in the Bronx. The American Postal Workers Union says those boxes removed and held at the Cornell Post Office were not being replaced.
In Trenton, New Jersey, mail was snapped piling up at a sorting facility. And in Morristown, a flatbed truck drew attention for hauling away a number of mailboxes Saturday morning.
"The Morristown Mayors office has been informed that a truck has been seen driving throughout town today with several US Postal Service Boxes in its truck bed. Our office has NOT been informed about any scheduled removals, changes or box replacements," read a Facebook post from the Town of Morristown.
Rep. Mikie Sherill (D-NJ) promised an investigation into the removal of boxes, tweeting, "I'm not going to sit by while the USPS -- and essential service -- is systematically dismantled here in NJ and around the country."
In a statement, the USPS said that it was aware of the concern regarding the removal of mailboxes, but said that "collection box movement can be part of routine maintenance, as seen in some pictures circulating in the New York area this weekend." The service said that some older blue boxes seen in towns may be taken out in favor of one with more security.
"The Postal Service reviews collection box density every year on a routine basis to identify redundant or seldom used collection boxes as First-Class Mail volume continues to decline," the statement read. "Based on the density testing, boxes are identified for potential removal and notices are placed on boxes to give customers an opportunity to comment before the removal decision is made."
The USPS said there are "no plans to remove collection boxes and no collection boxes in the area have been removed without notice."
Changes to the U.S. Postal Service prompted a dire warning from the president of the NY Metro Area Postal Union.
"Every facility that I represent, the mail is backing up, it's piling up more and more. It's definitely intentional and its going to hurt the American public in the long run," said Jonathan Smith, the union's president.
Last week the USPS sent letters to dozens of states and Washington, D.C. saying it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail will arrive in time to be counted.
As accusations intensify that longtime Trump ally, Postmaster General Lewis DeJoy is making it harder for Americans to vote by mail during the pandemic. By eliminating overtime for many workers and deactivating hundreds of mail sorting machines.
For weeks the president has argued without any evidence that voting by mail is subject to widespread fraud.
"Universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic. It's going to make our country a laughing stock all over the world," Trump has claimed.
Democrats said delays hurt more than voting.
"It will hurt our seniors, our veterans, others that depend on their medications by mail, their packages, other deliveries. And these delays are also happening across our country," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
The USPS has promised to stop the removal of any mailboxes until after the election. Still, the local postal union is worried.
"The postal workers do not want to be political. We do not deliver Democratic mail or Republican mail, we deliver all the mail. We just want to do our jobs like we've always done our jobs, and he's taking our ability to serve the American people away," Smith said.