Maryland has joined a group of states suing the U.S. Postal Service to reverse “unlawful” cost-cutting moves that Attorney General Brian Frosh said represent the “most deceitful plan in American history to disrupt an American election.”
The 14 states allege that President Donald Trump and his new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, did not follow proper procedures under federal law before imposing restrictions on overtime pay for postal workers and making other changes, including ordering the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines in Baltimore and around the country.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in eastern Washington state, outlines the importance of mail delivery in a November presidential election in which many voters fear voting in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. The suit alleges that the Postal Service changes — by hampering mail delivery so close to the election — unconstitutionally interfere with citizens’ rights to vote and states’ rights to regulate elections.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, DeJoy announced he was suspending some cost-cutting initiatives until after the Nov. 3 election “to avoid even the appearance of any impact” on voting.
DeJoy said mail processing equipment and collection boxes “will remain where they are,” post office hours will remain the same, processing facilities will stay open and “we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.”
A spokesperson for Frosh responded that DeJoy’s statement did not address concerns raised in the suit — specifically, the dismantling of equipment, such as four delivery bar code sorters at the Baltimore mail processing facility, and two more in Linthicum.
“Baltimore is a predominantly Democratic area,” Frosh said. “You can’t tell me this is an accident.”
Postal union officials said about 33 sorters remained at the Baltimore facility and about 10 in Linthicum.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeJoy’s announcement “a necessary but insufficient first step in ending the president’s election sabotage campaign.”
Pelosi, a Democrat, called DeJoy’s action a “pause” and said in a statement that it “only halts a limited number of the postmaster’s changes, does not reverse damage already done, and alone is not enough to ensure voters will not be disenfranchised by the president this fall.”
DeJoy has been a top Republican Party donor.
He said in his statement that the Postal Service “is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.”
The suit says the Postal Service acted outside of its authority by failing to submit the changes in advance to a Postal Regulatory Commission for an advisory opinion. It says the commission is supposed to evaluate the proposal and invite public comment
“This is the first lawsuit on this subject,” Frosh said.
He said the Postal Service moves represented “the most ambitious, grandest, most deceitful plan in American history to disrupt an American election.”
The White House referred a reporter Tuesday to a Justice Department spokesperson, who said the department had no comment.
Also signing on to the suit were the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and Wisconsin. All are Democrats.
“Widespread delays and disruptions in USPS delivery service have been reported across Maryland in recent weeks,” said the suit, which outlined mail service issues in all of the plaintiff states.
The suit seeks a reversal of the “sudden and unilateral changes to the nature of postal services with no opportunity for public input.”
Trump, a Republican, was named a defendant, along with DeJoy and the Postal Service.
“Some (Maryland) residents have reported not receiving any mail at all. Others have described extensive delays in receiving critical mail such as prescription medication, paychecks, benefit payments, loans and legal documents,” the suit said.
It said Maryland postal workers have cited factors such as changes to overtime policy and the removal of mail processing machines.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a similar lawsuit with at least five other states: California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation recently wrote to Postal Service leadership, complaining of “major mail delivery issues” at 14 locations in Baltimore City, as well as in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.
In late July, the Postal Service warned 46 states, including Maryland, that their deadlines for voters to get in their absentee ballots requests might not provide “sufficient time” for the ballots to be mailed to voters and then arrive at election offices with the required Election Day postmark.
The Maryland elections board has since voted to move that absentee ballot request deadline to Oct. 20. That is still one day shy of the 15 days before Election Day that the Postal Service said was the minimum time span for getting a ballot form and submitting a completed ballot by mail.
“Moving the application deadline will result in more voters missing the deadline and voting in person rather than by mail, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission at crowded voting centers,” the 14 states’ lawsuit said.