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Count the intentional slowdown of the U.S. Postal Service as the latest absurdity of 2020.

It has happened, of course, as the nation prepares for a general election in the midst of a pandemic, when Americans are increasingly dependent on mail service and when record numbers of voters plan to vote by mail.

Mail-in voting available in some states lets voters cast ballots without leaving their homes. Arkansas laws typically require an excuse, such as travel or military service, to qualify to vote absentee, but for 2020's general election, the state has cleared the way for anyone concerned about exposure to the coronavirus to get an absentee ballot.

Some will still vote that way. Others will instead brave going to a polling place this November, when both flu and the coronavirus are expected to be rampant in the population.

Voters are actually being warned by postal officials who say they can't be sure all mail-in ballots will be delivered in time to be counted.

Blame Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for ordering confounding changes that have already delayed the timely delivery of mail all across the country. DeJoy claims the changes, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers and taking high-speed sorting machines out of service, are intended to increase efficiency and reduce costs in the financially plagued agency.

The changes seem more like a response to marching orders from President Donald Trump, who has done all he can to discredit mail-in voting by fabricating claims of widespread fraud.

Trump actually said flat out last week that he didn't want extra funding to go to the USPS to facilitate mail-in voting.

Efforts are under way in Congress to provide more money to the Postal Service and to ensure what DeJoy is doing doesn't happen this year. On Tuesday, DeJoy announced he would suspend cost-cutting measures at the Post Office to avoid "even the appearance of any impact on election mail."

DeJoy, a top donor and fundraiser for President Trump, assumed the Postal Service job in mid-June. He was appointed by the USPS Board of Governors, all of whom are Trump appointees.

Besides the criticism of his policies, there are also allegations he has conflicts of interest that may be influencing his decisions.

Congress will try to sort some of this controversy out. DeJoy has agreed to testify voluntarily next week before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the operational changes he has made.

While the hearing will likely be another partisan sideshow, the questioning may provide some insight as to why Postal Service changes delayed delivery of everything from critical prescription drugs to checks, parts and supplies for businesses and individuals.

Those delays cause immediate grief to Americans reliant on the post office. But the potential disruption of the November election seems to be the biggest catalyst for action to "save" the Postal Service.

Recent polling shows diminishing confidence that votes cast by mail will be counted. A majority, 51 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, don't think the count will be accurate while 44 percent say it will be.

Blame that shifting sentiment on President Donald Trump's escalating war on mail-in voting and his absurd contention that, if he doesn't win re-election, the whole election will be a fraud.

The Republican incumbent is already laying the groundwork to challenge the election, should Democrat Joe Biden win.

That's why the Congress must address this situation with the Postal Service, both to restore voter confidence and to get the mail -- including all ballots -- delivered in a timely manner.

What's more, that action should come from Democrats and Republicans and independents serving constituents of every political stripe. Everyone's mail is being delayed. Anyone's vote could be.

Most of the response, however, is coming from Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called House members back from their August recess to address what she called "the president's campaign to sabotage the election."

In a rare Saturday session this week, the Democratically controlled House was expected to vote on a bill to block Postal Service changes during the pandemic.

Two other Democrats, both members of the House Judiciary Committee, have asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal investigation into the postmaster general's role in the mail delays.

Meanwhile, the USPS inspector general is reviewing the controversial policy changes at the agency. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and eight other Democratic lawmakers requested that inquiry last week.

So far, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not called the Republican-controlled Senate back from recess. He has said, however, that the Senate will make sure the ability of the Postal Service to function going into the election "is not adversely affected."

Unfortunately, the debate is playing out against the backdrop of national political conventions this week and next for the Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

And that only amplifies the partisanship.

Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist and longtime journalist in Northwest Arkansas. Email her at [email protected]

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