Nineteen state attorneys general, including Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, have sued the United States Postal Service for operational changes it planned to make that could “undermine the state and national election in November.”
The USPS recently sent out letters to dozens of states warning that their deadlines for requesting mail-in ballots were too close to Election Day, and could thus result in ballots arriving too late to be counted.
Two separate lawsuits have now been filed against the USPS, one headed by Pennsylvania and another led by Washington. Both suits name President Donald Trump as a defendant. Attorney General Ellison announced Tuesday that Minnesota was joining Washington’s suit.
“Despite the venerable history and obvious importance of the Postal Service, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has recently instituted sweeping changes that undermine the Postal Service’s ability to provide consistent and timely service. DeJoy has called these changes ‘transformative’ and has acknowledged that they have ‘impacted our overall service levels,'” the lawsuit states.
It then accuses the president of “evincing a partisan political motive for making it harder to vote by mail.”
The operational changes to the USPS included eliminating staff, altering operations at state distribution centers, decommissioning mail-sorting equipment, removing mailboxes, and ending the practice of processing mail-in ballots as first-class mail, according to the complaint.
DeJoy said the plans for these changes “predate [his] arrival at the Postal Service.”
Ellison’s office claimed the USPS’s sorting capacity in the Twin Cities area has been reduced by approximately 100,000 to 200,000 pieces of mail per hour.
After the suits were announced on Tuesday, DeJoy put out a statement saying he would ensure all ballots arrive on-time and would turn back the disputed changes until after the election.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards,” said DeJoy.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” he added.
Even though the Postal Service has backed down from the changes for the time being, Ellison said he’s “moving ahead.”
I sued Pres Trump & the Postmaster Gen today to halt drastic changes to USPS service that threaten our votes & ppl's lives. Our lawsuit says they violated fed law in making these changes in this way. They’ve now said they’re backing down. I’m moving ahead. https://t.co/zPSbUbHuVT— Attorney General Keith Ellison (@AGEllison) August 18, 2020
“Minnesotans and Americans everywhere are in the grips of a deadly global pandemic, the likes of which no one has seen in a century. In this environment, President Trump and his administration have taken sudden, dramatic, and unprecedented steps to undermine one of the longest-standing, most trusted institutions in America: our post office, which we rely on for everything from masks and life-saving medications to exercising our right to vote,” Ellison said in a statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the president of a “campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” but Trump maintains that universal mail-in voting will overwhelm the Postal Service and lead to widespread fraud.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there is no reason why Americans can’t vote in person come November
“If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that [vote in person],” he said in a recent interview with National Geographic.