Pascrell and Malinowski Halted by Mail Processing Center Security

Malinowski and Pascrell.

KEARNY – Maybe Bill Pascrell should have shown up with his own forklift.

Declaring he wants “to get the mail moving,” Pascrell and fellow Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski tried to visit a major mail processing center this morning to see how the mail – and by extension 2020 ballots – were being handled.

The mission failed.

A security guard in the parking lot of the Dominic V. Daniels mail center said they needed to arrange a visit in advance. Pascrell asked to speak to someone higher up on the bureaucratic chain of command. With no one readily available, there was a stalemate for a few minutes. Pascrell, in fact, was allowed to go in the building to use a restroom and Malinowski entered the lobby and spoke briefly with a man he later said worked in “operations.”

But that’s as far as they got.

Malinowski said he was told that all mail is being processed without delay.

Still, this was not what the representatives had in mind. Malinowski said he wanted to tour the plant and converse with workers about how things were going.

Today’s drama was another episode in what is now an election year saga involving the U.S. Postal Service.

And it occurred in what was a stereotypical, albeit unattractive, northern New Jersey location. The Kearny center is on a heavily industrial road just west of Jersey City.

Before trying to enter the facility, Pascrell and Malinowski spoke on a patch of grass across the street, struggling to be heard amid truck traffic, passing trains and even a barking German shepherd in a nearby pen.

Republicans have long been suspicious of mail-in voting, claiming it can lead to fraud.

Democrats are concerned that the Trump Administration is deliberately slowing down mail delivery.

“These people have tried every way to suppress the vote,” Pascrell said before the tour that never happened.

The Democrats pointed to “changes” in postal operations announced in the spring, But in August, those changes were put on hold.

Nonetheless, Pascrell said that this month he’s seen signs mail delivery has slowed.

He related tales of late mail delivery and reports of stacks of mail – and ballots – found “discarded.”

When Republicans talk of problems with the mail, they point to alleged fraud by those shifty Democrats.

But when Dems highlight problems, they point to the mischief of the Trump Administration.

One thing seems clear – both parties are encouraging supporters not to use the mail.

At a GOP rally a few weeks ago, a speaker urged voters to deliver their ballots personally to the local board of election. Democrats have been talking about using lock-boxes, at least 10 of which are in every county.

Pascrell said he visited the Kearny facility two years ago, which is why he was suspicious about being turned away this time. Pascrell said he was told visiting the mail center within 45 days of an election would have violated the Hatch Act, which prevents federal workers from actively engaging in partisan politics.

Pascrell said he found that reasoning a bit dubious.

The USPS released the following statement in response: The Postal Service welcomes visits from members of Congress at our facilities and we routinely arrange for tours. We also take our responsibilities with respect to the Hatch Act very seriously. As such, under our ethics guidance (internally updated 2018), Members of Congress who are on the ballot are not allowed to tour a postal facility within 45 days of a primary or general election, because it would place our employees at unreasonable risk of violating the Hatch Act. Those Members may schedule a tour with us at any other time. This guidance applies not just to tours, but to other Postal Service events as well, including First Day of Issue Stamp events and Post Office dedications. Worthy of note, the same prohibition does not apply to congressional staff.

We are happy to engage with any members directly to address the concerns they have in lieu of a tour during this 45 day period and routinely hold field level congressional briefings with congressional staff. An online ZOOM briefing session was held by Northern New Jersey postal officials for members and their staffs on September 17.

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