New York Attorney General, Letitia James on Tuesday led a coalition of states and cities from across the country in filing a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle the United States Postal Service (USPS) and disrupt operations in an effort to undermine the November Presidential Election.
The suit — filed against President Donald Trump, the USP and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — came a day after the postmaster general finished testifying before Congress in which he refused to reverse policies that have slowed mail operations across the nation.
In recent weeks, James said the USPS — under DeJoy’s directives — has begun to scale back operations “that would significantly undermine the USPS’s ability to handle what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots this November because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The slowdown is already having life-threatening impacts on veterans and seniors who are not receiving medication and economic impacts on individuals waiting for their pensions and paychecks,” she said. “This USPS slowdown is nothing more than a voter suppression tactic.
“Yet, this time, these authoritarian actions are not only jeopardizing our democracy and fundamental right to vote but the immediate health and financial well-being of Americans across the nation,” James said. “We will do everything in our power to stop the president’s power grab and ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot come November.”
The New York Attorney General said the US federal mail system has been “a critical part of American infrastructure since before the United States declared its independence.”
For more than 200 years, she said the federal postal service has provided “reliable, vital services to millions of Americans, and, for the last 50 years, the USPS has acted as an independent agency — severed from the president’s cabinet — in an effort to ensure its political independence.”
But, earlier this year — in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — a new postmaster general was appointed, who immediately led efforts to begin an “operational pivot” to overhaul how the USPS collects, processes, and delivers mail throughout the country.
In Tuesday’s lawsuit — filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia — James leads the coalition of three states and two cities in arguing that significant and recent changes to USPS operations under DeJoy’s leadership have “substantially delayed USPS mail in New York and across the country.”
The coalition said these include removing mailboxes and mail sorting machines, curtailing overtime for USPS staff, prohibiting late and extra trips that ensure mail is delivered on a timely and consistent basis, institutionalizing other policies that cause further delays and creating confusion regarding what election mail standards the USPS will follow in advance of the November general elections.
The suit further alleges that changes in USPS operations are in line with Trump’s “repeated and public statements in opposition to mail-in voting and his intent to impair the delivery of mailed ballots by cutting off the resources needed for the USPS to operate because mailed ballots would specifically harm Republicans’ abilities to win elections, even going so far as to make clear last month in a tweet that ‘Republicans, in particular, cannot let this happen.’”
“These changes reflect a significant departure from the USPS service standards, fail to adhere to the USPS’s statutory obligations, and fail to recognize USPS’s historic and critical role in America’s infrastructure,” James said.
“Further disconcerting is the fact that these changes come at a time when New York and the rest of the country — due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic — are relying on mail more than ever to deliver timely and critical services, including medication and other items, legal notices, and, crucially, election mail, as Americans near the November general elections,” she added.
James noted that the USPS is “an essential part of the US economy, providing vital services at levels that no other delivery system comes close to providing.”
She said nearly 120 million Veterans Affairs’ prescriptions are sent annually by mail; 20 percent of adults over the age of 40 who take medication for a chronic condition receive prescriptions by mail, and more than half of the people who receive medication by mail are over the age of 65; 18 percent of Americans pay their bills via the mail, including 40 percent of seniors; and nearly one in five Americans receive their tax refund through the mail.
In addition, James said about 40 percent of small businesses send packages through the USPS monthly; more than 42 million ballots were mailed to Americans in the 2018 midterms; and 80 percent of overseas members of armed services who voted did so by mail in 2018.
The New York Attorney General said the USPS’s recent changes will have” a significant impact on all Americans.”
She said the USPS currently delivers 48 percent of the world’s mail, adding that, in fiscal year 2019, it delivered 143 billion pieces of mail to 160 million delivery addresses.
In New York alone, James said the number of voters who will cast an absentee ballot is anticipated to be at least 10 times the number of such voters who cast absentee ballots in the 2016 Presidential Elections — expected to exceed more than one million this year.
James and the coalition specifically argue that efforts to undermine both the USPS and the November Elections are in violation of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the Postal Reorganization Act and the Elections Clause of the US Constitution.
The coalition asks the court to vacate all the recent changes made by the USPS and halt the USPS from further implementing the changes on the grounds that they violate statutory and constitutional law.
Tuesday’s filing was lauded by many members of the New York congressional delegation.
“The Post Office is as American as motherhood, baseball, and apple pie,” said US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8).
“The American people count on them to deliver social security benefits, medicine, unemployment insurance checks, ballots, and other essential items,” added Jeffries, whose district encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens. “No American should ever have to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote.
“I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for bringing this lawsuit on behalf of New Yorkers to help stop the shameful attacks by the Trump administration on the USPS and our election system,” he continued.