BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The United States Postal Serivce (USPS) and mail in ballots are at the center of a major political controversy.
The Postal Service faces major financial trouble and cuts. It's warning that mail in absentee ballots for this November’s election might not be delivered on time.
But two state lawmakers are now offering a potential solution.
“We must step forward to make sure that if you mail your ballot in — that's going to be counted,” remarked Sean Ryan, assemblyman.
State assembly members Sean Ryan and Monica Wallace are co-sponsoring legislation to authorize every county board of election to set up drop boxes in the state.
Wallace says their bill is a “common sense” solution to make sure a voters absentee ballot is counted
“The United States Postal Service is under attack. We have an Administration who is treating to defund the post office to serve their political agenda,” stated Wallace.
The Post Office lost $8.8 billion in the last fiscal year. It is already warning it won't be able to guarantee all ballots would arrive in time to be counted because funding cuts have created delays in mail delivery.
“And there's nothing more disenfranchising in our democracy then somehow having a loop whole set up, so your vote doesn't count that's not the American way," Ryan declared.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is also decrying the funding cuts.
“The things that President Trump says he's doing aren't making the Postal Service better — it's making it worse,” Gillbrand stated.
Gillbrand made her remarks late Monday afternoon during a virtual news conference with reporters.
7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley asked the senator if she thinks the absentee ballot boxes could be a solution.
“Do you see something like that as a possible option across the country to help?” Buckley questioned. “I haven't read yet about that idea, but it sounds like something we should look at for sure,” responded Gillibrand.
The Post Master General has agreed to testify before the House oversight committee next week.
Gillibrand is calling on the U.S. Senate to return to session. She would also like approval of the Postal Banking Act. This would generate postal funds and help provided low cost loans to Americans.
“First of all, it raises $9-billion a year, second it deals with the fact that 30-percent of Americans are un-banked or under-banked and even more will be that way after COVID because so many people have lost their jobs,” Gillibrand explained.
President Trump has declared that he’s not trying to sabotage the Postal Service.
“No. the post office is running very well. The post office. Now look, if you look at the post office for years, that's all people complained about. We're going to run it well, and we're going to not lose so much money,” Trump told reporters. “One of the things that post office loses so much money on is delivering packages for Amazon and these others. Every time they deliver a package, they probably lose three or $4. That's not good. They have to raise those prices. Okay. Not for the people to pay, but for Amazon and those companies to pay."
In outlining their proposal, Ryan and Wallace noted that mail in ballots is the best option for many Americans to safely vote during the pandemic.
“Which will give every New Yorker they chance to personally deliver his or her absentee ballot to a secure location without worrying that doing, so putting it in the mail box might mean their vote isn't counted — isn’t received on time,” said Wallace.
Ryan pointed out that other states have successfully used the absentee ballot boxes, including Arizona, California and Colorado. Ryan said Oregon has been using them since 1998.
The assemblyman was asked about placement of the proposed ballot boxes.
”You could visualize the steps of a town hall, so Hamburg Town Hall, Tonawanda Town Hall — highly visible public building,” replied Ryan.
Ryan told reporters he’s certain state lawmakers would be returning to Albany in a few weeks to consider the proposed legislation.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is also vowing to fight interference with the USPS.
“President Trump’s actions to interfere with the operations of the U.S. Postal Service in advance of the presidential election is deeply disturbing. It is an attempt at an authoritarian power grab in an effort to hold on to power, plain and simple. I, along with numerous other state attorneys general from around the nation, are now swiftly examining every legal option to protect the postal service and Americans’ right to vote absentee. While the president works to disenfranchise voters, we will fight to protect our democracy and ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot come November.”