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USPS protest
Oceanside twins Eve and Nina Ancekeier hold their signs in protest of changes to the USPS’s operating budget. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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Protesters fear election interference after USPS cutbacks

ENCINITAS — Local protests staged outside of North County post offices underscore a growing fear among residents over the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to deliver essential packages, including medicine, supplies and mail-in ballots.

Recent measures imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — removal of postal boxes and sorting machines, cuts to overtime pay and reduction of post office hours of operation — have stirred anger and controversy nationwide, prompting citizens and lawmakers to take action.

In previous weeks, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), as well as the political rights group Indivisible 49, have held demonstrations outside of post offices in Oceanside, Encinitas and Solana Beach, calling for greater accountability and oversight during the upcoming election season.

Other North County rallies have been held in Carlsbad, Vista, and Escondido, according to City News Service. Across San Diego County, rallies have also taken place in Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, Normal Heights, Carmel Mountain, Lakeside, University City, College Grove, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and El Cajon, CNS reports.

Tim and Misty O’Healy, two of the founders of Indivisible 49, organized the picket lines, leading students, veterans and elderly residents in a protest against USPS budgetary cuts.

Tim O’Healy, a Marine Corps veteran, described the recent changes as “not only skewing Americans’ ability to vote but an effort to stop voters with voter fraud. It not only affects our economy but everybody’s way of life and veterans’ health.”

“I joined for a reason and it was to protect our rights,” O’Healy said, “Coming out here to protest is a small sacrifice to save our democracy. If people can’t see what’s happening, they either don’t want to or don’t care.”

Levin, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, also spoke to the extent that recent changes negatively impacted veterans, hosting a demonstration at the Oceanside post office on Aug. 18.

Levin spoke to The Coast News, highlighting the stories of veterans who reached out to him for answers.

“In some cases, they haven’t received their medications in weeks,” Levin said. “For some veterans, this is life and death. 330,000 veterans receive medication each business day through the USPS. That’s nearly 20 million prescriptions a year, over 80% of which are sent through the USPS.”

Rep. Mike Levin
Rep. Mike Levin, in blue suit, holds a demonstration on Aug. 18 in Oceanside to support veterans negatively impacted by a slowdown in service by the USPS in recent weeks. Courtesy photo

Levin returned from Washington, D.C., on Monday after voting in support of a bill blocking any further changes and allocating $25 billion to save the federal agency. He is also seeking information from the San Diego Postal District.

According to Levin, 671 mail sorting machines were removed across the country, 76 in California postal facilities. Within the 49th Congressional District, Levin said he wants to know how many of the sorting machines were taken, why they were removed and where those machines are now.

“I want a full briefing,” Levin said. “I want to review some of the anecdotal evidence I’ve received from constituents and understand the truth behind some of the changes we’ve seen.”

When pressed for details by The Coast News about the removal of collection boxes from the Encinitas post office, USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Eva Jackson said the boxes were removed eight months ago due to lack of use.

However, the USPS did not respond to further questions regarding budget cuts and the removal of sorting machines immediately following the USPS Board of Governors’ appointment of DeJoy in May.

Even though the USPS has rescinded future service cuts, lawmakers on the U.S. House Oversight Committee questioned DeJoy on Aug. 24 about his motivations for implementing sweeping changes just months before a presidential election.

DeJoy, a well-known donor to President Donald Trump’s campaign, told lawmakers, “I am not engaged in sabotaging the election. [The USPS] will do everything in our power and structure to deliver ballots on time.”

Speaking at an Indivisible 49 protest on Aug. 15 in Encinitas, Misty O’Healy reiterated concerned residents’ fears that unaccounted changes will negatively impact the upcoming November election.

“Our vote is our voice and our voice matters,” O’Healy said. “People want to be heard and the post office is not political, it’s just American.”

Levin agreed with the idea that the Postal Service shouldn’t be used in a partisan manner.

“We just want to make sure we keep everyone safe and that they can all vote and not have to worry about their health,” Levin told The Coast News. “It really shouldn’t be controversial or partisan in any way.”