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After Senate Hearing, Postal Chief To Appear Before House Panel

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today the postmaster general is facing more questions from Congress. Louis DeJoy is appearing before a House panel here in Washington after testimony from Friday before the Senate. Now, during that Senate hearing, he spoke of changes to the Postal Service and of voting by mail, which he says is secure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOUIS DEJOY: I voted by mail for a number of years. The Postal Service will deliver every ballot and process every ballot in time.

ROB PORTMAN: Well, I appreciate - I appreciate that. So you do support voting by mail?

DEJOY: I think the American public should be able to vote by mail, and the Postal Service will support it.

INSKEEP: That statement from DeJoy, a major contributor to President Trump, differs from the president, who has spent several months promoting false conspiracies about the security of voting by mail. He was questioned there by Rob Portman, Republican senator from Ohio, also supported voting by mail.

Today the people who question DeJoy include Gary Palmer, a Republican from Alabama. Congressman, welcome to the program.

GARY PALMER: Glad to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Are you reassured that voting by mail works and the Postal Service can handle it?

PALMER: I think it works. But it's going to depend, I think, a great deal upon the states so that we don't have another disaster like they had in New York, where they had 30,000 absentee ballots dumped on the post office the day before the primary.

INSKEEP: I think you're saying that you would like states to follow the Postal Service guidance for when to turn in ballots to make sure that everything is in in a reasonable time compared to Election Day. Is that what you're saying?

PALMER: Absolutely. I mean, this is not something that the post office can't handle if the states do their job. If you have a 60% turnout where 90 million people vote by mail, that's less than 1% of the mail volume that the post office handles in a typical month.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

PALMER: So if the states handle this correctly, people get their ballots in in a timely manner, this shouldn't be a problem.

INSKEEP: Does it matter to you if some of the votes are delayed - like the votes are properly counted, but maybe it's three days after the election or five days after the election before we have a full picture of everything? Does that matter?

PALMER: Yeah, that does bother me because I think it increases the opportunity for fraud, and at least it raises that specter in the minds of the electorate. And I think we have an election day for a reason. It was intended to be an election day. There's - we've always had circumstances that allowed for votes to be counted later, particularly with our military. But with the technology that we have today and the ability to move things rapidly, we shouldn't have three-, four-, five-week day - or weeklong elections.

INSKEEP: I guess we should be really clear there - you said it raises the possibility of fraud and also the specter of fraud. I can understand the specter, people being concerned and fears being raised by politicians. But the security measures would be exactly the same if the votes are a couple of days late, right? Just as you said with the military, it's happened in the past. The security would be absolutely identical, no matter what any politician says.

PALMER: Well, it depends on how they do it, you know. I think there are people out there smart enough to cheat the system, and I think keeping this down to an Election Day event reduces that probability.

INSKEEP: Congressman, the House approved $25 billion in emergency funding for the post office because the post office is in a grave fiscal situation. As I understand it, you voted no. Why?

PALMER: Well, first of all, the post office, financially, is not in a grave fiscal condition regarding their ability to get the mail out right now. They've got enough funds. They've got $14 billion right now that will get them through August of 2021. There's another $10 billion that's available to them through the CARES Act. So that was a myth that was put out there. They don't need another $25 billion. What we need to do is address the prefunding of their pensions, and that's one of the things that the postal workers really want us to do. But instead, what we had on Saturday was a vote on, basically, I think, political posturing.

INSKEEP: You're talking about the plan to have Postal Service pensions funded, like, 75 years out. Is that right?

PALMER: That's - the prefunding issue is a huge issue, and I think that could be resolved. That would...

INSKEEP: Does...

PALMER: That would help get the post office back on a good fiscal track.

INSKEEP: Does the postmaster general want the $25 billion?

PALMER: I don't think so. I think based on our discussions with him - or, actually, the discussions that he's had with other folks is that he says that they've got the funds that they need; they don't need the additional funding. And if they do, there's that 10 billion available to them.

INSKEEP: OK. Gary Palmer of Alabama is one of the lawmakers who will question Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a hearing today in the House of Representatives. Congressman, thanks so much.

PALMER: Thanks for having me on, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.