In Latest Legal Rebuke, Court Orders Postal Service to Prioritize Mail-In Voting

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in New York on Monday ordered the Postal Service to reverse operational changes that have slowed mail delivery in recent months and to prioritize election mail, the latest legal rebuke to Louis DeJoy’s management of the agency.

By Friday, Judge Victor Marrero said in his ruling, the Postal Service must begin treating all election mail, including ballots, as first-class or priority mail; preapprove all overtime requested from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, the peak times for election mail; and submit a plan to restore on-time delivery of mail to its highest level this year.

“The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election, raising doubts as to whether their votes will ultimately be counted,” Judge Marrero said.

The order came in response to a lawsuit that mail-in voters from six states brought against President Trump and Mr. DeJoy, the postmaster general. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, sought to block cuts that Mr. DeJoy had put in place just months before the election in November.

Seventeen plaintiffs from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York asked the court to declare that Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy, the Republican megadonor and presidential ally installed this year to lead the Postal Service, had violated voters’ rights by scaling back operations in an effort to stymie mail-in voting.

In June, union officials received a notice that Postal Service management was removing 671 machines used to sort mail quickly because of a “reduction to letter and flat mail volume.” In July, the agency sent employees a memo banning additional daily trips beyond their initial runs in an effort to save about $200 million.

Judge Marrero also ordered Mr. DeJoy to reverse that ban and to provide the court with a weekly update of the Postal Service’s progress in improving mail delivery.

Election 2020 ›

Understand Mail-In Voting

    • Rise in Mail Voting: About three-quarters of all American voters will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail for the 2020 election — the most in U.S. history. Roughly 80 million mail ballots may flood election offices, more than double what was returned in 2016.
    • Surge in Paper Mail: The long-troubled Postal Service may be overwhelmed by the task of delivering tens of millions more votes cast by mail.
    • How to Count Ballots? There may be various battles over how to count ballots. Should mailed ballots be counted if they are received by Election Day or simply postmarked by Election Day? Does a ballot count if the post office does not postmark it at all?
    • Do You Still Have Time?: Voters in 35 states can request ballots so close to Election Day that it may not be feasible for their ballots to be mailed to them and sent back to election officials in time to be counted. Here’s a list of state’s where it’s risky to procrastinate.
    • A Long Road to Election Day: It is estimated that party organizations, campaigns and interest groups across the county have already filed 160 lawsuits trying to shape the rules of the election.

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