Following an admission by President Donald Trump that he is intentionally undermining the United States Postal Service ahead of the November election, paired with the removal of more than 30 blue mailboxes from Portland and Eugene, Oregon leaders have decried Trump's attack on the USPS.
The removal of those mailboxes, first confirmed Aug. 13 by WW, has contributed to nationwide alarm, in part because it coincided with other upheaval at the Postal Service leading into the home stretch of the presidential election.
USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson told WW the mailboxes were only being removed in locations where there were multiple boxes stationed, and that the decision to remove them followed a decline in mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The reason we're doing it is because of declining mail volume," Swanson said. "Ever since the pandemic came along, people are mailing less for some reason."
But on Aug. 14, a USPS spokesman pledged to NBC News that the agency would stop removing mailboxes. "We are not going to be removing any boxes," Rod Spurgeon said. "After the election, we're going to take a look at operations and see what we need and don't need."
During a press conference the same morning, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Trump was intentionally trying to sabotage vote by mail.
Wyden floated the idea of having the Oregon National Guard step in during election season to ensure ballots are received and processed in time. Nothing is set in stone yet, Wyden said, but he is having conversations with Gov. Kate Brown and the head of the National Guard about the possibility.
"We are going to make sure that every single ballot that is cast is going to be counted," Wyden said during the press conference, "and we are not going to let Donald Trump and his bullies take away that sacred vote-by-mail effort that Oregon has spent over two decades creating."
Also on Friday, Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno responded in a public statement to a July 31 letter sent out by the USPS regarding concerns that mailed ballots might be delayed due to changes within the Postal Service.
"Fortunately, Oregon has two decades of experience working with our local contacts at the United States Postal Service and has an excellent partnership with them to ensure ongoing support for our elections," Clarno said. "We will of course continue to work with them and monitor any potential impact to both the mailing out of ballots to voters and the return of ballots. We at the state level are meeting with our USPS partners to ensure we are ready for November."
Following the mailbox removal, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called the situation in Oregon "bizarre," The Washington Post reported.
"I was joking earlier with a couple on the call," Biden said. "I wonder if you're outside trying to hold down your mailboxes. They're going around literally with tractor-trailers picking up mailboxes.…You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!"
The mailbox removal is proving a perfect campaign issue for Democrats—and not just in the presidential race.
In a statement released Friday, state Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-Portland), the Democratic Party nominee for Oregon secretary of state, said she was working with Merkley and Wyden "to find every possible solution to stop Trump's influence on our elections."
"Oregon's elections have been administered exclusively by mail-in paper ballots for over 20 years and we record some of the highest voter participation in the nation," the statement said. "Willamette Week reported this week that the Postal Service has already begun to remove blue boxes from Oregon cities, directly creating a barrier to voting in a state that votes entirely by mail."
Fagan said the "sabotage of the Postal Service is an attack on Oregon's democracy," and that Trump's decision to target the USPS is both "an attack on Oregonians and our democracy."