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CNN  — 

The US Postal Service plans to remove hundreds of high-volume mail-processing machines from facilities across the country, leading some postal workers to fear they may have less capacity to process mail during election season.

Documents obtained by CNN indicate 671 machines used to organize letters or other pieces of mail are slated for “reduction” in dozens of cities this year. The agency started removing machines in June, according to postal workers.

While the reductions come amid decreased mail volume this year and are described by some postal officials as making the service more cost-effective, the effort overlaps with other actions implemented by the Postal Service that workers have blamed for delivery delays. The new procedures were described in a July memo and include staff hours being cut.

The news was earlier reported by Vice.

The removals are also occurring as President Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked voting by mail, falsely claiming that the practice leads to mass fraud. Amid the pandemic, a record number of voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail this fall. Trump said Thursday that he opposes additional funding for the Postal Service because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting this November, though he later said at a news conference that he would not veto a bill that included the funding.

The Postal Service said in a statement that it “routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes. Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost effective operations and better service for our customers.”

But the Postal Service’s own document calls the move a “reduction” of equipment. Postal workers in various locations said machines have been dismantled and that it wasn’t immediately clear what the agency was doing with the parts.

Some of these machines have the capacity to sort up to 30,000 mail items and take only two Postal Service workers to run, according two machine technicians CNN spoke with.

They estimate it would take about 30 employees over their entire shifts – they have to have scheme training to do the work – to do that amount of work by hand.

The reduction effort has prompted questions and concerns among some postal union leaders.

A letter sent Wednesday from the National Postal Mail Handlers Union to the Postal Service headquarters asked, “Why are these machines being removed?” and “What is the anticipated staffing impacts in the facilities that are losing equipment?” The letter also asked if it’s true that all equipment planned for removal has not been used since early May.

Chris Bentley, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 297, which covers Kansas and part of Missouri, told CNN that postal management has already taken out four machines in Kansas City, two machines in Springfield, Missouri, and one machine in Wichita, Kansas.

Bentley said that even though total mail volume is currently down, he didn’t understand why the machines were being removed rather than simply turned off and kept in place in case they are needed in the fall, when the Postal Service expects volume to increase with mail-in ballots, campaign materials and other mail.

“The comparison would be that if you have a room in your house that you are not using much anymore, you might turn the light switch off to that room, but you wouldn’t call an electrician and have all the wiring removed from that room,” he said.

Lamont Brooks, director of the clerks division of the American Postal Workers Union, said the Postal Service hadn’t informed the union it was removing machines until the union asked about the issue in June, when it started getting calls from mail clerks about the dismantling of machines.

He echoed concerns about potential delays for mail-in ballots.

“There’s no way it’s not going to be a problem [for] Election Day,” Brooks said.

Still, Paul Hogrogian, national president for the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, said he does not expect the dismantling of processing equipment to have a widespread impact on mail delivery time across the country, including in election season.

“A lot of the machines they are taking out … a lot of them haven’t been used in a while anyways,” he said.