KEARNY — The U.S. Postal Service said it would have been illegal to allow three Democratic congressman into a postal sorting facility on Monday.

U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell , Albio Sires and Tom Malinowski said they were stopped from entering the Dominick V. Daniels Processing and Distribution Center in Kearny to make sure mail-in ballots were being processed properly.

In a joint written statement, Sires said they went to make sure ballots in New Jersey's vote by mail election were being properly handled.

"Ahead of the November election, when a record number of ballots are set to be sent by mail, it is crucial we ensure the integrity and ability of the postal service to faithfully and securely transfer these ballots. Our congressional delegation should be granted access to the facility so we can be certain that the ballots of New Jerseyan’s are being processed correctly," Sires said.

The U.S. Postal Service in a written statement said a visit from members of Congress would violate the Hatch Act, which they said prohibits members of Congress who are on the ballot from touring a postal facility within 45 days of an election because it would put employees at "unreasonable risk" of violating the law.

"This guidance applies not just to tours, but to other Postal Service events as well, including First Day of Issue Stamp events and Post Office dedications. Worthy of note, the same prohibition does not apply to congressional staff," the Postal Service said.

The Postal Service said an online meeting was held about the election on Sept. 17 with members of Congress and their staffs.

The Hatch Act is a federal law that prohibits government workers from engaging in political activities while on the job. Candidates are also barred from campaigning on federal property.

Pascrell accused the Postal Service of "making up phony excuses" and said he visited the same facility in the weeks before the 2018 mid-term election without any problems.

"It has all the markings of [Postmaster General] Louis DeJoy, who should be hauled before a criminal grand jury for what he’s done. This isn’t Area 51 – our congressional delegation must have access to see if USPS can handle the millions of ballots being cast this election. And New Jerseyans have a right to know if their votes are secure. This isn’t politics: it’s about protecting our democracy from Trump and DeJoy’s arson," Pascrell said in a written statement.

New Jersey joined a federal lawsuit seeking to block changes at the U.S. Postal Service from being implemented that could potentially delay the handling of mail.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said that the Postal Service's reductions in overtime, mail-sorting machines and public mailboxes are illegal because they were implemented without a public hearing.

The lawsuit was settled when DeJoy authorized the use of additional resources "to satisfy any unforeseen demand and ensure that all Election Mail is prioritized and delivered securely and on time."

In early October, a 26-year-old U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was arrested on charges of ditching nearly 2,000 pieces of mail, including 99 general election mail-in ballots intended to be delivered to West Orange residents.

Nicholas Beauchene, of Kearny, was charged in U.S. District Court with one count of delay, secretion or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ