Cites Trump administration’s ‘partisan’ effort to disrupt voting
A federal judge in Spokane last week granted a nationwide injunction sought by Washington and 13 other states to halt changes in U.S. Postal Service operations that have slowed mail delivery as the Nov. 3 general election approaches.
The ruling will ensure that all election mail continues to be treated as first-class mail, as it has in the past. It will also stop a policy of leaving mail behind in post office facilities rather than loading it onto departing delivery trucks.
The lawsuit, led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, charged that the changes instituted this year by Postmaster Louis DeJoy, a Trump administration appointee, had significantly slowed delivery of first-class mail and increased the likelihood that mail-in ballots would miss deadlines and result in votes not being counted.
Ruling from the bench on Sept. 17, U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington Judge Stanley Bastian ordered a halt the changes, and said that “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”
Citing “President Trump’s highly partisan words and tweets,” Bastian said, “It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Service’s changes are an intentional effort on the part of the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state and federal elections.”
The ruling requires the Postal Service to stop a policy of leaving mail behind in sorting facilities in order to send delivery trucks out at specific times, even if there is still mail to be loaded. It will also require the Postal Service to reassemble or reconnect mail-sorting machines that are needed to process and deliver election mail. In his ruling, Bastian noted that 72 percent of the decommissioned high-speed mail sorting machines that were taken out of service were located in counties where Hillary Clinton received the most votes in 2016.
“DeJoy’s actions fly in the face of Congress’s intent to insulate … the Postal Service from partisan politics and political influence and acknowledgment that free and fair elections depend on a reliable mail service,” Bastian wrote.
The judge said the plaintiffs demonstrated that recent changes implemented by DeJoy and the Postal Service have had other “serious consequences” including interfering with the delivery of prescription medicines, pension payments, and collection of fees and taxes.
Ferguson said the ruling “protects a critical institution for our country. Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard.”
Washington was joined in the lawsuit by several states considered “battleground” states in the coming general election. Ferguson said protecting mail-in voting is especially critical during this election, when many more voters around the nation are expected to cast mail-in ballots to avoid voting in person and potential exposure to COVID-19.
“The changes at the Postal Service come as President Donald Trump continues to claim without evidence that widespread vote-by-mail will lead to a fraudulent election,” Ferguson said in a statement last week. Washington mandated elections by mail-in ballot in 2011, and “has not experienced voter fraud at any significant level,” he said.