Democratic attorneys general step up to stop Trump from destroying Postal Service, election

Aug 25, 2020 | 0 comments

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James has joined the nearly two dozen states suing the U.S. Postal Service in federal courts. “This USPS slowdown is nothing more than a voter suppression tactic,” James said in a statement. “Yet, this time, these authoritarian actions are not only jeopardizing our democracy and fundamental right to vote, but the immediate health and financial well-being of Americans across the nation.” Hawaii and New Jersey, as well as City of New York and City and County of San Francisco have joined this suit.

This is the third suit brought by states to push back against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s operational changes that have disrupted mail service and threaten the conduct of November’s election. One suit, led by Pennsylvania, was filed in the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, and was joined by California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. That suit charges that the changes have harmed these states’ ability to have fair elections this fall. “[T]o the Trump Administration, delivering your paycheck, medication or ballot is a joke but there’s nothing funny about the wages you earn, your health, or right to vote,” California’s AG Xavier Becerra said when that suit was announced. “That’s why today we’re standing with Pennsylvania and other states, taking the Postmaster General to court.”

Another suit, led by Washington State AG Bob Ferguson is suing Trump and DeJoy. The states included in that case are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The states in that case argue that the changes, including removing mail sorting machines, limiting overtime, and shutting down mail distribution centers will interfere with the conduct of November’s election. Washington state’s balloting is conducted entirely by mail. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, said in an interview about that case, “We’re trying to stop Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service, which we believe to be an attack on the integrity of election. It’s a straight-up attack on democracy. […] This conduct is illegal. It’s unconstitutional. It’s harmful to the country. It’s harmful to individuals.”

That suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, alleges that the changes DeJoy has termed “transformative” are “both procedurally and substantively unlawful.” Procedurally, they write “Congress has established a specific process the Postal Service must follow before making changes in postal services, requiring the Postmaster General to consult with the Postal Regulatory Commission and to give the public an opportunity to comment. […] General DeJoy never engaged in that process here.” On the substance, the GAs argue “these changes will have a wide range of negative consequences that violate a diverse array of federal laws, from harming individuals with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act to disenfranchising voters in violation of the Constitution.”

The New York suit is filed in the U.S. District Court in D.C. against Trump, DeJoy, and the USPS. “Despite Congress’s efforts to insulate the U.S. Postal Service from political interloping, the Trump Administration has improperly interfered with this independent agency,” James argues. “The Trump Administration and the agency have also pressured states to change their plans to conduct the November 3, 2020 election through expanded mail-in voting, with the intent of impairing the delivery of mailed ballots otherwise authorized by state law.” The suit cites the testimony from David Williams, who served as a vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors before he resigned in protest of the politicization of the agency, to the House and his description of ongoing pressure from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to force the USPS to make these operational changes. James also details Trump’s statements attacking vote by mail and his campaign lawsuits in various states and counties to prevent them from conducting the election by mail.

“Given the documented delays in mail delivery, the U.S. Postal Service’s equivocation on how it will ensure election mail is timely delivered, and the Trump Administration’s campaign to undermine both the agency and mail-in voting, Defendants’ actions are interfering with Plaintiffs’ administration of state electoral schemes, undermining Plaintiffs’ ability to perform core governmental functions, and imposing added costs and administrative burdens,” James argues on behalf of the states and cities. She is asking that the court “Issue an order holding unlawful, vacating, and setting aside the Postal Policy Changes,” as well as preventing Trump, DeJoy, and the USPS from “implementing any substantially nationwide changes in service without first seeking an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission.”

With the election just 10 weeks away, the courts are going to have to act fast to save it and the Postal Service. But the triple-barreled suits against the USPS along with the scrutiny of the media and of the Democratic House, might work to constrain DeJoy and the Board of Governors from doing more damage.

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