USPS & Election: Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Postal Service Changes

A man puts letters in to a mail box while demonstrating in support of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) outside a post office in Cambridge, Mass., August 25, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from implementing a range of policy changes, saying the Trump administration is engaged in “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” leading up to the presidential election in November.

Stanley Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington granted a nationwide preliminary injunction at the request of 14 states to halt changes introduced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that have caused mail delays across the country.

The changes would “likely will slow down delivery of ballots,” Bastian said, causing a “substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.”

President Trump has argued that widespread voting by mail could serve as a breeding ground for voter fraud and imperil the integrity of the presidential election. Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed for voting by mail to protect voters from exposing themselves to the coronavirus at polling places. More than a dozen states either delayed their primary elections or expanded voting by mail as the pandemic continued.

Last month, the Democratic-held House passed a bill to provide $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, a level of funding that the White House has rejected.

“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. “They have also demonstrated that this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election.”

“It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes is an intentional effort on the part the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections,” Bastian wrote in his order putting the reforms on hold.

Last month, DeJoy testified to lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he sees it as his “sacred duty” to ensure the safe and timely transport of election mail. He also argued that many of the cost-cutting reforms that were slowing mail delivery had been in the works since before his tenure and were unrelated to the upcoming election.

USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer responded to the judge’s decision Thursday, saying that, “while we are exploring our legal options, there should be no doubt that the Postal Service is ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives. Our number one priority is to deliver election mail on-time.”

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