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Orange County congressman delivers pro-USPS messages outside Costa Mesa post office

Valerie Honn holds a "Delivering for America" sign at a Save the USPS in Newport Beach.
Valerie Honn, a resident of Orange and a 32-year postal carrier who recently retired, holds a sign after a Save the USPS rally at the Camelback Street post office in Newport Beach, on Tuesday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Marie Gunton recently reached out to her congressman with a grievance.

As a seller on Etsy, she shipped a yard of specialty fabric first-class from Seal Beach to Indianapolis on July 24. Her buyer planned to make masks to protect against COVID-19, but by Aug. 3, the parcel still wasn’t there.

Gunton asked a postal clerk why it might be held up. She said she was told that in addition to the impacts of the pandemic and recent cutbacks by Postmaster Gen. Louis DeJoy, the new directive was to focus on premium Priority Mail.

Gunton considered that a “hijacking.” That’s what she told Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) and what she said again Tuesday at a local rally to defend the U.S. Postal Service.

“My story is not unique,” she said at the rally, held outside the Costa Mesa post office on Adams Avenue. “The disruption of our mail is a malicious act that affects us all.”

From a podium fashioned from shipping boxes, Rouda said nobody needs to take his word for it that removal of blue curbside outgoing boxes and elimination of overtime are a plan to suppress the vote in November that could unseat President Trump.

“No, you don’t have to take my word for it. Take the president’s word for it, one of the few times you can,” Rouda said. “He actually said it. He admitted that the reason that these changes were being made was to cut down on the ability for mail-in voting.”

Trump said last week he would block a funding boost for the postal service to handle an expected influx of mail-in ballots this fall to limit voting by mail during the ongoing pandemic.

No evidence supports the president’s allegation that mail-in ballots lead to widespread voter fraud.

Rep. Harley Rouda speaks at the Costa Mesa post office on Adams Avenue Tuesday.
Rep. Harley Rouda speaks at the Costa Mesa post office on Adams Avenue Tuesday. To his right are Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, Mayor Katrina Foley and Councilwoman Andrea Marr.
(Screenshot by Hillary Davis)

Rouda said he was nonplussed by the announcement Tuesday that DeJoy, a major Trump donor who was appointed to the postmaster spot in May, had suspended equipment removal to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”

“Really?” Rouda said. “We are way past that.”

He said the postmaster should put back the equipment or add more.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said that when she was in college, she wanted to contact her father, who was working as an engineer on a barge in the sea outside Seward, Alaska. All she could put on the envelope was his name and city.

After two weeks, the postal service had found her dad.

“This is a neutral institution. It should not be politicized,” she said. “We should rely on the post office for our families, for our seniors, for medicine, for paychecks and for our small businesses so they can stay in business.”

Sonia Canchola, a representative of the American Postal Workers Union, listed the equipment removed from post offices statewide, including 74 of the bar code readers that scan mail-in ballots. Without those large machines, the workers have to scan ballots manually.

She said they would.

“We treat those ballots as V.I.P. first-class mail,” added her colleague Keisha Lewis, president of the Garden Grove-based branch of the National Assn. of Letter Carriers.

Both women urged voters to return their ballots without delay once they hit mailboxes in early October.

“We want to deliver to small businesses. We want to deliver medication. We want to deliver packages to the military,” Lewis said at another rally Tuesday, this one at the Newport Beach post office on Camelback Street. “Most of all we want to deliver the ballots this election.”

Canchola said if the postal service can handle Christmas cards, it can handle ballots.

And it can still handle small parcels of fabric. Eventually.

Gunton, the Etsy seller, said she sent another yard to her customer in Indianapolis using Priority Mail. It arrived in two days.

The original first-class package arrived in Indiana almost a month after it left Seal Beach, on Aug. 23.

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