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Yakima judge halts USPS changes, labels them ‘intentional effort’ to disrupt November election

An elections worker loads unopened ballots into a machine for sorting at the King County Elections headquarters on August 4, 2020. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

A U.S. district court judge out of Yakima granted a request Thursday to pause a series of changes to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) the lawsuit claims are “a politically motivated attack” on mail delivery ahead of November’s general election.

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According to Judge Stanley Bastian, plaintiffs in the lawsuit “established a likelihood of success” in proving that Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy “infringed on the States’ constitutional authority to regulate elections and the people’s right to vote.” He further ruled that there would be “irreparable harm” without a preliminary injunction halting DeJoy’s changes while the lawsuit plays out.

“Today’s victory protects a critical institution for our country. Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is leading the multi-state lawsuit, said Thursday.

Judge Bastian expanded on his reasoning in analysis published in his ruling, saying the following:

Although not necessarily apparent on the surface, at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement. 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.

It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes is an intentional effort on the part the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections, especially given that 72% of the decommissioned high speed mail sorting machines that were decommissioned were located in counties where Hillary Clinton receive the most votes in 2016.

Thursday’s injunction will now require the USPS to halt its recently-enacted “leave behind” policy, to treat all election mail as first class mail rather than as slower-moving categories, to reinstall any mail processing machines needed to ensure the prompt handling of election mail, and to inform its employees about the requirements of the injunction.

Ferguson ‘considering all legal options’ to fight Trump changes to USPS

DeJoy had previously vowed to halt some of the changes he had instituted until after the November election. That being so, many of the changes remained in place, while stopping short of agreeing to reinstall mail sorting machines, which had been dismantled under his orders.

Washington is joined in its lawsuit by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. In late August, Judge Bastian agreed to expedite the case in the interest of ensuring the timely delivery of mail for the November election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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