A woman walks past mailboxes  seen outside of a US Post Office in Washington, DC on August 17, 2020. - The United States Postal Service is popularly known for delivering mail despite snow, rain or heat, but it faces a new foe in President Donald Trump. Ahead of the November 3 elections in which millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail due to the coronavirus, Trump has leveled an unprecedented attack at the USPS, opposing efforts to give the cash-strapped agency more money as part of a big new virus-related stimulus package, even as changes there have caused delays in mail delivery. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
How the USPS became a political battleground
03:08 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The United States Postal Service removed 711 mail-sorting machines from postal facilities – the highest level in at least four years – according to new court testimony from top-ranking agency officials.

In written testimony and documents submitted Wednesday to a federal court in New York, the postal service’s director of processing operation disclosed the high number of removals, which is the most that occurred in one year of President Donald Trump’s tenure and roughly double the machines USPS typically removes in a given year.

Many postal service employees confirmed that the removal of outdated machines was routine, but raised concerns of doing so in an election year where millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail.

The numbers in the court papers, provided by USPS official Jason DeChambeau, show this is the most machines removed since fiscal year 2016. The Postal Service removed an average of approximately 388 machines from facilities per year from 2015 through 2019.

Written testimony submitted as part of a lawsuit about Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s policy changes and potential disruption to election mail stated that the Postal Service has removed and/or replaced unnecessary or outdated mail processing equipment from facilities for years, and that it was common practice. In fiscal year 2016, USPS removed more than 1,100 machines from across the country.

The decision to remove these machines was made before DeJoy started his post in June, during a significant mail decrease due to coronavirus, DeChambeau said in the written testimony.

He said the machine removals stopped on August 18 at the direction of DeJoy, who has come under fire for changes he made to the postal service that have caused massive delays in mail service ahead of the election.

According to internal documents obtained by CNN, in February 2020, the USPS said it had 4,926 mail sorting machines. In DeChambeau’s declaration, USPS had only 4,824 mail sorting machines in October 2019. CNN has reached out about the apparent discrepancy.