A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the US Postal Service from implementing changes that have been blamed for slowing mail, CNN reports.
The ruling came after 14 states filed a lawsuit against the USPS and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, arguing that the agency made changes without going through the legally-required public comment period and that the changes may interfere with their ability to properly run elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Eastern Washington District Judge Stanley Bastian, an Obama appointee, issued a preliminary injunction largely siding with the state’s request.
The order will require the agency to stop its policy of forcing trucks to leave on schedule even if they have no mail and instructs the USPS to bring mail sorting machines needed to ensure the prompt handling of mail ballots back online. The order also requires the agency to treat all election mail as first class mail.
"The states have demonstrated the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service," Bastian said, adding that the changes created "a substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised."
USPS may appeal:
USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said the agency was still weighing its legal options, suggesting that it may appeal the decision.
He added that "there should be no doubt that the Postal Service is ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives."
Donald Lee Moak, one of the members of the USPS Board of Governors, said that the allegation that the changes were politically motivated was “completely and utterly without merit.”
Justice Department attorney Joseph Bronson argued in court that the changes would not impact the election.
"There's been a lot of confusion in the briefing and in the press about what the Postal Service has done," he added. "The states are accusing us of making changes we have not in fact made."
Judge warns of election impact:
Bastian rejected the administration’s explanations.
"Although not necessarily apparent on the surface, at the heart of DeJoy's and the Postal Service's actions is voter disenfranchisement," he wrote. "This is evident in President Trump's highly partisan words and tweets, the actual impact of the changes on primary elections that resulted in uncounted ballots, and recent attempts and lawsuits by the Republican National Committee and President Trump's campaign to stop the States' efforts to bypass the Postal Service by utilizing ballot drop boxes, as well as the timing of the changes."
Bastian went on to note that more than 70% of sorting machines were removed in areas won by Hillary Clinton, calling it an "intentional effort on the part of the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections."