Federal Court Blocks Postal Service's Controversial Operational Changes Nationwide
USPS has admitted Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's reforms caused delays, which the judge found politically motivated and risked disenfranchising voters.
The U.S. Postal Service must cease operational changes put in place by its new leader Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a federal court ruled on Thursday.
Stanley Bastian, a judge at the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Washington, granted a preliminary injunction to block DeJoy’s changes ahead of the upcoming election. Washington and 13 other states sued the Postal Service for launching reforms while circumventing its regulatory body, moves they believe risk disenfranchising voters by delaying the delivery of mail-in ballots. Phil Weiser, the attorney general for Colorado, which joined the suit, said the ruling was granted on a nationwide basis.
DeJoy has acknowledged that his reforms, which stressed keeping deliveries on a strict schedule and curtailing late and extra trips by postal carriers, have caused significant mail delays. Postal officials have argued in similar lawsuits in other parts of the country the delays were due to “poor judgment” by supervisors at the local level, stating it was never their intention to leave mail behind so trucks could leave processing facilities on time. They also testified that other changes—such as decommissioning mail processing equipment and removing collection boxes—were routine, and on-time performance of the mail has already ticked back up nearly to the levels seen before DeJoy’s reforms went into place.
Front-line supervisors and employees have said they were simply following direction from headquarters when running trucks from processing plants on a set schedule, even if that meant leaving mail behind. It strains credulity, some have said, that employees on the ground all misinterpreted DeJoy’s changes in the same way at the same time.
In their motion requesting an injunction, Washington and the other states argued DeJoy’s new policy setting strict delivery schedules was responsible for the mail delays and the postmaster general—while walking back other initiatives he said were in place prior to his arrival—had said it would remain in place through the election.
Bastain, the judge, said USPS’ changes were politically motivated, negatively impacted the efficiency of the agency and could disenfranchise voters. How the injunction will be carried out in practice remains unclear. DeJoy and the Postal Service have promised as many late and extra trips as needed to deliver election mail.
In a written order issued Thursday evening, Bastain said it is "easy to conclude" the Trump administration was deliberately attempting to disrupt the election.
"Although not necessarily apparent on the surface, at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement," the judge wrote, adding that conclusion was made clear by Trump's "highly partisan words and tweets."
Unlike the order DeJoy already issued last month to roll back some of the controversial initiatives underway at the mailing agency, the court's order specifically put a hold on the effort to cut down on late and extra trips. Leaving mail behind for processing at a later date, requiring trucks to "leave at set times regardless of whether the mail is actually ready" and prohibiting extra trips to ensure all mail is completed in a timely manner were all directly enjoined. Bastain instructed all employees of the order, which will remain in effect nationally until the court reaches a final judgment or issues a further order.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., praised the decision.
“To everyone except Postmaster DeJoy, the Postal Board Governors, and congressional Republicans, the changes at the USPS are evidence of deliberate, political sabotage, and massive voter suppression on the eve of the election,” Connolly said. “This court decision is a win for democracy and every American voter.”
This story was updated with additional information from the court's order.