Democratic Senators Demand Answers From Louis DeJoy After USPS Failed to Update Voter Address Changes

Democratic senators have sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, demanding answers about the United States Postal Service's failure to update 1.8 million changes of address in its national database over the summer.

The USPS stopped fully updating a national change of address system for three weeks in August, Time revealed in a report last month. Most states use the database, known as the National Change of Address Linkage (NCOALink) to keep their voter rolls current.

The agency's inspector general is now investigating the failure to update the database during a period many states were preparing to send out mail-in ballots to voters ahead of the November 3 election.

"I can confirm that we are conducting a review," Agapi Doulaveris, a spokesperson for the inspector general's office, told Newsweek. But she said she did not have any additional information about the inquiry, including whether any findings will be disclosed before the election.

Martha Johnson, a spokesperson for the USPS, did not comment on the inspector general's investigation, but told Newsweek that the problem was resolved with an NCOALink product update on September 14.

However, the agency has yet to explain exactly what caused the database failure. According to Time, the USPS described it as an "error" in emails it sent to its private vendors and said it was not the result of any changes in policy or practice.

What exactly caused the failure to update the system and what impact it had on election mail are among the questions asked of DeJoy by 19 Democratic senators in a letter sent last week

"With voters already casting ballots across the nation, such failures are unacceptable and require immediate action," said the letter, led by Sens. Jacky Rosen and Gary Peters. Rosen and Peters are both members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the USPS.

"Between August 10 and August 30, at least 1.8 million new changes of address were not registered in the database, due to an unspecified 'error.'

"While USPS stated that it fixed the error and restored the missing data on September 14, we are concerned about how the missing data affected jurisdictions that were preparing election mailings during the outage."

They also questioned why the USPS and its 400 election mail co-ordinators did not inform election officials in the states impacted by the missing data.

The senators also demanded to know exactly when DeJoy found out about the issue, what steps he took to fix it and questioned his testimony on August 21—which came amid the database failure—that all election mail would be delivered on time.

DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser who was appointed to his post in June, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after operational changes at the agency led to nationwide delays in mail deliveries, raising concerns the USPS would not be able to handle the surge in mail-in ballots as millions more Americans vote by mail in November's election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics accused DeJoy of sabotage to help President Donald Trump, who has baselessly repeated claims that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud.

"We received the letter and will respond directly to the Members of Congress about concerns they raised," Johnson told Newsweek.

Johnson added: "It is important to understand that the only system that was impacted was the NCOALink product the USPS licenses to service providers and end-users that allows them to update their address files prior to mailing. There were no impacts to the forwarding of any customer's mail as this is done through a completely separate system."

Johnson said the USPS's "number one priority between now and the November election is the secure, timely delivery of the nation's Election Mail."

She added that the USPS "remains a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is proud of its role as an important component of the nation's democratic process."

In a statement on Tuesday, DeJoy again reiterated that election mail would be delivered on time. "The more than 630,000 men and women of the U.S Postal Service are ready to fulfill on the sacred duty of delivering the nation's Election Mail securely and timely," DeJoy said.

"The sanctity and security of the nation's mail is a core value for all Postal Service employees, and that core value fully applies with Election Mail.

"Anyone who suggests that Postal Service employees are anything but fully dedicated to the mission of delivering the nation's Election Mail knows little about the passion and determination of the people who make the Postal Service work, in every corner of the country, every day."

Close-up of logo for United States Postal Service (USPS) on mailbox in Lafayette, California, September 3, 2020. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images