U.S. judge blocks 'politically motivated' Postal Service reforms

Clay Curtis
September 20, 2020

In drafts that surfaced from USPS, the postal service was going to distribute masks to areas that were "experiencing high transmission rates of COVID-19".

But others remained in place, and the states - including the battlegrounds of Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada - sued to have those undone as well. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. 'The states are accusing us of making changes we have not in fact made'.

He also said slow-downs caused by the "leave behind" policy had gotten better since it was first implemented, and that the Postal Service in reality had made no changes with regard to how it classifies and processes election mail. However, the suspension failed to prioritize mail-in ballots as First Class mail unless First Class postage was paid, which according to Bastian, has "already disenfranchised voters and will disenfranchise many more in November".

Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service that have been blamed for a slowdown in mail delivery. USPS rejects these claims and DeJoy says he isn't trying to sabotage the election.

He further ruled that there would be "irreparable harm" without a preliminary injunction halting DeJoy's changes while the lawsuit plays out.

"The states have demonstrated that the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service", Bastian said in remarks after a hearing in Yakima, Wash.

"Despite overwhelming evidence of the safety and security of mail-in voting, President Trump has waged a months-long crusade to undermine mail-in voting", the states wrote.

This national slowdown of mail is concerning because of two things: the coronavirus pandemic and the November election.

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Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said in a statement that "there should be no doubt that the Postal Service is ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives". Democrats and Republicans are also battling in courts across the US over deadlines for accepting mail-in ballots, with some arguing the USPS delays justify extending deadlines to several days after Election Day.

Lee Moak, election mail committee chair of the postal service's board of governors, called any suggestion of a politically motivated attack on efficiency "completely and utterly without merit".

Some of the Democratic state officials who brought the lawsuit cheered the judge's decision.

According to the statement by Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Judge Stanley said his order would substantially follow the state's motion.

Since his arrival at the USPS in June, DeJoy oversaw the implementation of only one major initiative: restricting late and extra trips that mail trucks take.

Ferguson led 13 other states in a lawsuit filed August 18 to stop what he called "drastic changes" at the USPS that would jeopardize mail delivery across the country ahead of the election. Postal employees and union officials have repeatedly told CNN because of DeJoy's new policy, mail was delayed after it was left behind on loading docks.

The judge also ordered the USPS to take care of all election mail as initial-class mail, as opposed to its slower-moving categories, and reinstall mail processing tools that has been decommissioned beneath DeJoy's command. He also argued that numerous cost-cutting reforms that were slowing mail delivery had been in the works since before his tenure and were unrelated to the upcoming election.

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