Michigan joins a dozen states suing USPS to protect mail-in voting

Aug 18, 2020 at 5:11 pm
click to enlarge Michigan joins a dozen states suing USPS to protect mail-in voting

Michigan has joined a dozen others states that plan to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday over changes that have delayed mail delivery ahead of a surge in mail-in voting during the general election.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a President Donald Trump and Republican Party megadonor, has made sweeping changes at USPS, including removing mail-sorting machines and drop boxes, prohibiting employee overtime, and imposing a hiring freeze.

“Recent actions taken by Mr. DeJoy are unlawful and indicate an attempt to disrupt and delay U.S. Postal Service operations,” Nessel said in a news release. “For more than 200 years, the postal service has been a fundamental part of the fabric of this country. People and businesses rely on it to deliver critical medications, correspondence and goods. We filed this lawsuit on behalf of the people of this state to ensure they can continue to depend on a system that is an integral part of our daily lives, our economic well-being and our democratic process.”

The lawsuit argues that federal law prohibits DeJoy from unilaterally making changes that affect mail service. Those changes must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission and be presented to the public for comment, according to the lawsuit.

“General DeJoy never engaged in that process here,” the lawsuit states. “As a matter of substance, these changes will have a wide range of negative consequences that violate a diverse array of federal laws, from harming individuals with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act to disenfranchising voters in violation of the Constitution.”

Trump admitted last week that he’s preventing additional funding for the USPS in order to make it more difficult to handle the influx of mail-in ballots.

“President Trump’s attempts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service are deeply disturbing, and we intend to do everything in our power to mitigate their effect on Michigan residents,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “Americans rely on our Postal Service for prescription drugs, voting, Social Security checks and more. The president is putting families’ health and safety at risk in his attempt to suppress votes in the 2020 election.”

On Friday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she's worried that tens of thousands of votes may be rejected in Michigan's general election for arriving after Election Day. In the primary election, 6,400 votes were tossed out because they arrived too late. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a little more than 10,000 votes.

“Every Michigan citizen has a right to vote by mail, and the U.S. Postal Service is duty-bound to ensure that right is realized for every voter,” Benson said. “The foundation of any democracy is the holding of safe and secure elections. Any institution — whether local, state or federal — that plays a role in the execution of those elections is part of that foundation. To jeopardize the success of the USPS is to jeopardize the success of our democracy.”

In letters to 46 states, the U.S. Postal Service recently warned that voters could be disenfranchised because of delays in the mail.

On Tuesday, after widespread outcry, DeJoy said he’s “suspending” the changes he's made until after the general election. What’s unclear is whether the sorting machines that have been been removed will be returned. The machines have been recently removed from post offices in Pontiac, Detroit, and Grand Rapids.

“The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said in a news release. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid the pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards."

The suspension of the changes comes before DeJoy is scheduled to testify Friday before the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern District of Michigan, suggested on Saturday that DeJoy was obstructing mail, a federal crime. Former Attorney General Eric Holder agreed.

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