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Postal Service Must Make Votes First-Class, Restore Overtime (2)

Sept. 21, 2020, 8:02 PM

A federal judge ordered Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to treat all election-related mail as first-class and restore overtime for U.S. Postal Service employees -- a fresh courtroom loss for the agency accused in several lawsuits of trying to undermine the coming election.

An injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York directs the USPS to pre-approve all overtime sought for workers from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6 and to give first-class treatment to all election mail beginning Oct. 15. The judge cited the potential threat to the right to vote caused by operational changes instituted by DeJoy, a longtime Republican donor.

“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,” Marrero said.

The injunction, the second against the USPS in less than a week, comes in a case brought against DeJoy and President Donald Trump by a group of voters and political candidates who accused them of trying to hobble the agency.

Read More: Judge Blasts DeJoy’s ‘Intentional’ Bid to Disrupt Election

USPS spokeswoman Martha Johnson said in a statement that the postal agency is reviewing the decision.

“There should be no doubt, however, that the Postal Service is ready and fully committed to handling expected increased volumes of Election Mail between now and the conclusion of the November 3rd election,” Johnson said. “Our number one priority is to deliver the nation’s Election Mail securely and in a timely fashion.”

The judge’s 87-page ruling criticized DeJoy for implementing major operational changes in a manner that has reduced confidence in mail-in voting just as a surge in absentee ballots is expected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The judge also criticized Trump for his negative remarks about mail-in voting, as well as the president’s suggestion that voters should try to vote in person after mailing their ballots to “test” the system.

Three lawsuits brought by groups of Democratic state attorneys general are also pending in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Washington state. Among the 16 plaintiffs in the New York case are Mondaire Jones, an attorney and the Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th Congressional District, north of New York City, and Alessandra Biaggi, a New York State senator from the Bronx who is running for re-election in November.

(Updates with comment from the USPS.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net

Peter Jeffrey, Peter Blumberg

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.