A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service — run by GOP megadonor-turned-Postmaster Louis DeJoy — to suspend and reverse changes that risk disrupting the 2020 election. District Judge Stanley Bastian’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by 14 states that alleged DeJoy misused his authority as postmaster to aid the reelection of Donald Trump. “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” in violation of federal law, Bastian writes. “At the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”
Under DeJoy’s watch, the Postal Service has ripped out high-speed mail sorting equipment (apparently targeting pivotal swing states), put trucks on an inflexible schedules that forced them to depart regardless of whether the mail is on board, limited mail-carrier autonomy and overtime hours that can address backlogs, and refused to treat ballots, uniformly, as First-Class mail. The changes have slowed mail delivery to a crawl, with terrible consequences, including killing livestock shipped by mail and disrupting timely delivery of prescriptions and benefit checks.
In his ruling — a preliminary injunction but sweeping in its scope — Bastian writes that the plaintiffs had “established a likelihood of success” in their claims that “the Postmaster General… infringed on the States’ constitutional authority to regulate elections and the people’s right to vote.”
He points to the changes at the Postal Service as part of a concerted effort to constrain the franchise, marked by the president’s wild statements and tweets blasting vote-by-mail, as well as lawsuits brought by the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to block access to ballot drop boxes, which could offer absentee voters a work-around to vote-by-mail.
“It is easy to conclude,” Bastian writes, “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.” The judge cited an extraordinary statistic to drive home his point: “72 percent of the decommissioned high-speed mail sorting machines… were located in counties where Hillary Clinton receive[d] the most votes in 2016.”
The available evidence, the judge writes, “suggest that the Postal Service’s actions are not the result of any legitimate business concerns,” and that Postmaster “DeJoy’s actions fly in the face of Congress’s intent to insulate the management of the Postal Service from partisan politics and political influence and acknowledgement that free and fair elections depend on a reliable mail service.”
Bastain’s ruling enjoins the Postal Service from further actions that could harm vote-by-mail. It blocks implementation of DeJoy’s strict truck departure schedule (which Bastain dubs a “Leave Mail Behind” policy), empowers Postal Service workers to make local decisions to ensure timely delivery of mail, requires the Postal Service to treat all ballots as first class mail. The ruling also blocks further removal of sorting machines. It further orders that any branch of the mail service now unable to process ballots as first class mail because of equipment that was decommissioned to have that equipment “replaced, reassembled, or reconnected to ensure that the Postal Service can comply with its prior policy.”
Officials in Washington state, a lead plaintiff in the case, heralded the ruling as a victory for democracy. “Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard,” said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Added Gov. Jay Inslee: “This is a huge victory for our election system and Americans’ access to the ballot box.”
Read judge Bastian’s full, scathing ruling below: