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Fmr. USPS Board of Governors Chair on mail-in ballots and the war on the USPS

David Fineman, Former USPS Board of Governors Chair, joined The Final Round to discuss the state if the USPS, how Postmaster General DeJoy has been handling running this public service and his advice for mail-in voting for the upcoming election.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Let's get to another big story that we are closely following here at Yahoo Finance. And that, of course, is the latest developments in regards to the US post office. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy making the announcement that the Postal Service will suspend operational changes until after the 2020 election. Now this, of course, follows pressure from lawmakers and also state attorneys general who said that it could jeopardize mail-in voting. So for more on this, we want to bring in David Fineman. He is the former USPS Board of Governors chair.

And David, great to have you on the show. I'm just curious. Let's just start with what DeJoy recently said, suspending those changes. I know that there are still questions about whether the agency is going to reverse some of the measures that have already been put in place. But what are your thoughts on his restructuring plans and then also the statement that we got from him suspending some of those actions, was that sufficient to you?

DAVID FINEMAN: Thank you for having me. Initially, I think that he's got to reverse the plans that he put into place. And I think also it's a question of finding out what he is doing. He is not running a private business. He's running a business-- he's not running a business, but a service to the United States, public to all of us. And what he's got to do is to tell everybody what he is doing.

One would expect that if he was going to cut back on service, he would have made some sort of public announcement. He might have gone to the congressional leadership, particularly the chairperson of the committee that oversees the Postal Service on the House side, the Senate side, minority leaders. He would have gone and done what he had to do.

In fact, there are provisions. The lawsuits, quite frankly, all involve looking at what was the law that was enacted in 2006. And in 2006, the law was changed, and the Postal Service has a responsibility to go to the Postal Regulatory Commission if they're going to make changes that affect either national service, which this does, and then the Postal Regulatory Commission is supposed to hold hearings.

Quite frankly, after those hearings are held, they give an advisory opinion, so the post office could do whatever it wanted to do. But they might learn something at those hearings, and they'd learn how it was going to affect the American public. And that, I think, is the major problem here. He's not running a-- he was an entrepreneur. And he's not running a company that he's started, for which he gets the capital return on. It's that simple.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey David, Rick Newman here. So this has become a political issue, obviously, because of things Trump has said about wanting to deter mail-in voting and the suspicion that some of these changes could slow the delivery of ballots, as we get into the election season. Can that-- does it look to you like that might actually happen? And you did make the point that there is a difference between just stopping what he is doing in the middle and just calling it right-- just calling a pause but leaving the damage in place, if you will, or actually reversing what he has done. So is this a real threat to voting, do you think?

DAVID FINEMAN: I think he's got to rescind the letter that he wrote to the 40-some states, indicating that he-- that mail could-- that ballots could be affected. And I think that certain actions that he took might have an effect. But quite frankly, the biggest thing that the Postal Service has going for it, it has over 600,000 employees. And those employees are dedicated.

Over 3,000 of them were stricken with the deadly disease. Over 60 of them died. And they will step up to the challenge. For all of you, I suspect you've seen your mail person delivering mail.

I live in downtown Philadelphia. When this first happened and we were in the shutdown stage, stay at home, and I would take walks, and I'd see-- the only person I'd see on the street might be the mail delivery person. Usually I would say, thank you for being here. They were an essential worker. So I think that they'll step up to the challenge. But he's just got to stop what he's doing, and he's got to reverse it.

If he took-- I don't know why he took mail sorting equipment out of certain post offices or--

RICK NEWMAN: Let me-- I was going to ask you to address that. Can you tell us the significance of those machines? Are we talking about state-of-the-art equipment that is essential to processing the mail, or are these old machines that are bordering on obsolete?

DAVID FINEMAN: I can't say that I know definitely what they are, but I think that most of the equipment had been upgraded over the last few years. And we're not talking about obsolete equipment. I would hear stories like, he came into Philadelphia, took out equipment. No one knew he was going to take it out. The workers didn't know. And he took it out, and what was-- and the story that went around was that it was going to use it for spare parts. It made no-- it really made no sense, to be honest with you.

And the other thing, you know, I'm on Yahoo Finance, so let's just talk about the money. You know, I like to follow the money. I'm a practicing lawyer. I've sat on boards of publicly-traded companies. Let's follow the money. What we care about-- if he really cares about it, how much money was he saving in making these cuts? And I don't think anybody knows that. And that's what we have to know.

In other words, if he had a hearing, you would have a hearing. And somebody would say, OK, you're going to take out equipment. Well, how much are you going to save by taking out that equipment, and over what period of time are you going to save it? He's got to talk to the American public and tell the American public what he's doing. That's really what the problem is.

AKIKO FUJITA: Bottom line, though, David, we're talking about potentially a record number of mail-in ballots come November. I mean, as the Postal Service stands right now, I mean, are they equipped to handle that? We're still talking about additional funding that's needed. We've heard cities that have said they won't be able to process everything. I mean, where does that stand?

DAVID FINEMAN: Let's talk about the Postal Service first, and we could talk about cities, if you'd like. But quite frankly, the Postal Service handles much, much more volume over the holiday season than it would handle during this period of time, particularly when it's going to be over some period of time. If you're going to vote by mail, my suggestion is you do it early. It's going to be some period of time. I've spoken to people in Philadelphia. They are getting ballots already, incredible amounts of requests for ballots. And they are processing them because they're getting them early.

Over the holiday season, it is a rush to get packages. You know, Philadelphia, send a package to Kansas. It seems to get there, doesn't it? And I would suggest to you that it's going to be the same.

You know, you were talking-- your last guest, they were talking about the changes in America. Over the last year-- over the last three years, there's been a 15% increase in the amount of people doing business on e-commerce. In the last three months, according to McKinsey, the increase has been about 30%. That means it would be about 10 years to have that kind of increase immediately.

So there are more packages in the mail, and they're being delivered by private delivery services like FedEx and UPS as well. But they're being delivered by the Postal Service. And there's no reason to believe that they can't handle the rush that there'll be on ballots and then get onto the rush for the holiday mail.

SEANA SMITH: All right, David Fineman, great to have you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time. We really enjoy your perspective, former USPS Board of Governors chair. We hope to have you back. Thanks for joining us today.

DAVID FINEMAN: Thank you for having me.