The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) continues to make headlines as recent service cutbacks are being seen as a way to hamper voting efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. To counter these measures, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that New Jersey, New York, and a coalition of state, county and local governments have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
These policy and operational changes have already delayed mail services, and many fear they will impact the upcoming November election—during which voters are expected to primarily use mail-in ballots. Delays in the delivery of election mail have already been reported, the complaint contends.
“Voting by mail is safe, secure, and reliable and we intend to keep it that way for New Jerseyans,” said Grewal. “Americans will vote by mail in record numbers this November and the Postal Service’s dramatic changes threaten to disenfranchise voters by disrupting mail service. We will continue working with other state Attorneys General to protect the election and voter rights.”
The lawsuit contends that the USPS’ actions are unlawful because there wasn’t a required public hearing before the Postal Regulatory Commission.
Mail-in ballots are not new, but the usage is expected to grow ten-fold due to safety concerns stemming from the pandemic.
The complaint states that one of the USPS’ critical functions is to support federal, state and local elections across the country through the delivery of critical election materials such as ballots, voter registration cards, absentee applications and polling place notifications.
Not Just Election Mail
The lawsuit also claims that the USPS is violating the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with the States’ authority to set rules for the election.
The court is being asked to vacate all changes implemented by USPS because they are illegal, and because millions of Americans will not be voting in person in November. They expect timely delivery of election mail to ensure their votes are counted.
Delays created by the dismantling hundreds of mail-sorting machines, reducing the number of mailboxes available to the public, and rolling back postal worker overtime have impacted Americans who depend on the USPS for medication and other health-related products.
No Plan to Restore Service
“Countless people in New Jersey and across the nation, including some of our most vulnerable citizens, rely on the mail for prescription drugs and other things that help them survive,” said Grewal. “During this critical time, Americans deserve better than a mail slow-down rooted in political gamesmanship.”
Although Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said that some of the changes being contested will be suspended, the complaint reports that DeJoy has said that removed sorting machines and other equipment will not be returned.
“The Postal Service’s unofficial motto states that ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,’” said Grewal. “The Postal Service has served Americans well since our country’s founding. We are filing this lawsuit to ensure that even politically motivated cutbacks won’t prevent the timely delivery of our residents’ mail.”