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Politics Federal judge halts changes to Postal Service, citing 'voter disenfranchisement'

02:31  20 september  2020
02:31  20 september  2020 Source:   abcnews.go.com

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A federal judge in Washington State ordered the U.S. Postal Service to halt a set of controversial cost-cutting changes imposed earlier this year by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, handing a major victory to several Democratic state attorneys general.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 24, 2020. © Tom Williams/Pool via Reuters, FILE Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 24, 2020.

U.S. Judge Stanley Bastian wrote Thursday that "partisan politics" was the root cause of the Postal Service’s cost-cutting measures and "voter disenfranchisement" was the effect. He found that the state attorneys general proved "that the United States Postal Service and the Postmaster General violated and infringed on the States’ constitutional authority to regulate elections and the people’s right to vote."

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"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. "Plaintiffs have made a strong showing that the recent changes are the result of an effort by the current administration to use the Postal Service as a tool in partisan politics."

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In response to Bastian's claim that "partisan politics" were at play, Lee Moak, a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors, said “any suggestion that there is a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service is completely and utterly without merit.”

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  'A politically motivated attack': Federal judge says he'll block USPS changes after mail delays Judge Stanley Bastian found the agency was "involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency" which would "irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election.” Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. During a court hearing, Bastian said he would be issuing a nationwide injunction against the USPS. The scope of the injunction was not immediately clear, with the judge saying he would provide more detail in the written order to be issued later Thursday or on Friday, according to the Washington Post.

Last month, Washington State’s attorney general filed the lawsuit on behalf of 14 states. The coalition argued that the changes imposed by DeJoy, which slowed mail delivery service during the summer months, violated the states’ constitutional right to run elections.

Washington State is enjoined by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin in the suit. Two other lawsuits led by Pennsylvania and New York remain pending.

"Today’s victory protects a critical institution for our country," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is leading the suit, said Thursday. "Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard."

a man that is standing in the street: A mail carrier delivers mail in the Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 21, 2020. © Brendan McDermid/Reuters, FILE A mail carrier delivers mail in the Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 21, 2020.

Congressional Democrats have accused DeJoy, who is a longtime Republican donor and Trump appointee, of deliberately slowing mail service as part of an effort to undermine mail-in voting in November.

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Citing Trump’s propensity to use "highly partisan words and tweets," the slowed mail service, and Republicans’ efforts to fight efforts "to bypass" the changes, Bastian wrote that "the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement."

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Bastian also slammed the Postal Service position -- which claimed that "nothing has changed" in its approach to election mail -- as "simply not true." Bastian wrote that the "statistics show there has been a drastic decrease in delivery rates."

As such, the judge ordered the Postal Service to cease "implementation or enforcement of policy changes announced in July 2020 that have slowed mail delivery."

Notably, Bastian ordered that any post office or facility having trouble meeting first-class delivery standards "because of the Postal Service’s recent removal and decommissioning of equipment" must have its equipment restored. The matter must be brought before the court, the judge said, if the Postal Service rejects the request to bring equipment back online.

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It was not immediately clear how the ruling would be enforced, and a Postal Service spokesperson said Friday that the agency's lawyers are already "exploring our legal options." But several enjoined parties celebrated on social media late Thursday.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold exclaimed on twitter, "Another injunction won!" Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring added, "Just won a court order BLOCKING Trump/DeJoy sabotage of the US Postal Service."

"This is a huge victory for our election system and Americans’ access to the ballot box," said Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee. "I thank the Attorney General and his team for all their work on behalf of Washingtonians."


Gallery: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy assured US senators that delivering election mail is his 'No. 1 priority' (Business Insider)

a person holding a sign: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify before the US Senate on Friday. Lawmakers are expected to ask DeJoy about the Postal Service's current financial state and how recent operations changes will affect the 2020 election. The hearing begins at 9 a.m ET. Follow along for live updates here.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will appear to testify before the US Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday to testify about the US Postal Service's financial status and how the Postal Service plans to handle historic levels of Americans casting ballots by mail this November. A firestorm of controversy erupted around DeJoy, a shipping and logistics executive and GOP donor who had never worked at the Post Office, when he announced new operations protocols meant to cut costs at the cash-strapped Postal Service, which has seen mail volume plummet in the past decade and was hit hard economically by the pandemic.In particular, new changes Postal Service leadership enacted limiting overtime and late trips have contributed to mail delays in some parts of the country and sparked fears that voters' ballots could be among the mail items delayed. Despite the Postal Service's robust capacity for processing mail and their assurances that election mail will represent a small percentage of their total mail volume, systematic operations changes to the agency could still cause delays in the delivery of mail ballots this November.In a Tuesday statement, DeJoy reversed course and announced he would suspend operational changes to US Postal Service until after the election

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