Three North Jersey House Democrats called for the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General to launch an investigation into a growing number of abandoned mail incidents that have plagued that part of the state throughout 2020.
“As you investigate the dumped mail in North Arlington, we ask that you determine whether there is a connection to other mail delivery issues that have plagued our constituents this year,” Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) and Albio Sires (D-West New York) said in a letter to USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb.
The state’s northern counties have been subject to a series of mail irregularities dating back to last year, though this year’s incidents are notable because of the Postal Service’s handling of mail-in ballots.
In April, the New Jersey Globe reported stacks of mail-in ballots left unattended in the lobby of a Belleville apartment building. The next month, the Paterson Press reported similarly faulty deliveries in two city apartment buildings. A postal worker was fired over the latter incidents following a USPS Inspector General investigation.
Montclair’s main post office closed four early on May 12, meaning voters were disenfranchised after some ballots sent in time to be counted for the town’s non-partisan municipal election were held until after polls closed.
Most recently, a postal carrier trashed nearly 1,900 pieces of mail — including 99 ballots and 276 local campaign flyers — in a dumpster. Authorities on Wednesday charged Nicholas Beauchene with one count of delay, secretion or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail following an investigation into the incident.
“This incident represents yet another jarring example of the mail delivery problems that have plagued North Jersey residents this year,” the three lawmakers said in their letter.
Thousands of mail-in ballots arrived too late to be counted in May’s non-partisan races, and while an extension to the grace period for late-arriving ballots alleviated that issue for New Jersey’s July 7 primaries, 9,550 ballots were still rejected because of delivery delays.
Another 6,535 primary ballots voters returned on July 7 were postmarked for the day after the election.
On top of the probe, the three lawmakers also want to be allowed to tour postal facilities.
All 10 Democratic members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation sought to tour Kearny’s Dominick V. Daniels Processing and Distribution Center, which processes mail for much of the region, but were told they would be refused because of a 2018 policy barring political visits within 45 days of an election.
“This is an absurd perversion of the law. There is no clear basis to block Article I congressional oversight. These excuses call into question whether USPS is intentionally blocking Congress from investigating legitimate and repeated mail delivery issues ahead of the upcoming election,” the Democrats said. “Indeed, recent reporting indicates that this rule is recent and has been applied inconsistently, with elected representatives being blocked from visiting postal facilities outside of the 45-day window ahead of the election.”
The Washington Post reported the restriction, which seeks to protect postal workers from Hatch Act violations, was unevenly applied.