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Bustos Confident USPS Can Handle Mail-In Ballots In November

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) speaks outside the U.S. Postal Service Sorting and Distribution Facility on State Street in Peoria, 9/8/20.
Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) speaks outside the U.S. Postal Service Sorting and Distribution Facility on State Street in Peoria, 9/8/20.

Despite recent sorting machine removals in Peoria and elsewhere, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said she's confident the Post Office can handle large numbers of mail-in ballots in November.

Bustos toured the Peoria U.S. Sorting and Distribution facility on State Street on Tuesday.

"They assured me that those [mail-in ballots] will be prioritized, and that nobody should have any fear about voting by mail. Because going in to this, I can tell you that town after town, city after city in this region, there's a lot of concern about that," she said."

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are expected to opt for a vote-by-mail than ever before. In Peoria, Bustos said one sorting machine was removed. Two others are slated for removal and replacement. But Bustos said the USPS can bear the additional burden.

"Even though we will have more mail-in ballots, absentee ballots, than we ever have in the history of our nation, it will still not rise to the level of peak holiday season," Bustos said. "And that's why they have confidence. They know how to do this."

Bustos said since the COVID-19 pandemic began, parcel deliveries are up 55%, but the rate of letter sending is down. The facility handled more than a million letters and deliveries overnight alone.

President Donald Trump has warned about voter fraud this election. But Bustos said fraud is exceedingly rare, and several states already pull off mail-in voting successfully.

"The president of the United States, Donald Trump, votes by mail," Bustos said. "And for him to be acting like there's fraud that's embedded in the system, it's a false narrative."

She described those vote-by-mail concerns as a "cynical way to look at this election," and a way to tamp down on voting by mail during the pandemic.

"I think we should be doing everything we can to remove barriers for people voting in an extremely consequential election, instead of making people afraid to do it," Bustos said.

However, she said it may take longer to count votes this year, and asked voters for patience if results aren't in on election night.

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Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.