AG Shapiro Announces Lawsuit to Stop Service Changes at Post Office, Secure Vote-By-Mail

August 18, 2020 | Topic: Rights

Multi-state coalition will protect Postal Service and ensure safe, secure, vote-by-mail
Pennsylvania filed state action last week so that eligible ballots would be counted in November

HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced two separate multistate coalitions that will file federal lawsuits challenging nationwide operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service. The lawsuits seek to halt unilateral changes at the Postal Service and ensure safe, secure vote-by-mail across the country.

Service and policy changes at the Post Office, including limiting staff overtime and so-called “late or extra shifts” have impacted the prompt delivery of mail to Americans who rely on the Postal Service for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

“We will be taking action to reinstate Postal Service standards that all Americans depend on, whether it’s for delivering their prescription drugs or for carrying their very right to vote,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Recent post office changes have been implemented recklessly, before checking the law, and we will use our authority to stop them and help ensure that every eligible ballot is counted.”

As a direct result of these changes at the Post Office, Pennsylvanians have been experiencing delays in receiving their mail, often going days without delivery of important letters, paychecks, or bills. The VA fills about 80% of veterans’ prescriptions through the mail. Putting Pennsylvania’s 800,000 veterans, many of them seniors, at risk of going without vital medication.

Nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail in Pennsylvania’s 2020 primary election, the first to take place since the passage of Act 77 in 2019, which instituted no-excuse mail-in voting. For seniors and individuals with disabilities or pre-existing conditions, access to mail-in ballots is particularly important for this upcoming election while States contend with the ongoing pandemic.

“With this imminent filing, we are putting the Administration on notice: immediately roll back these operational changes at the US Postal Service and allow postal workers carry out their vital mission without interference — or lose to us in court,” continued Attorney General Shapiro. “And for the public, know that postal workers have long provided secure and reliable delivery of ballots. The important thing for you to do is vote. Vote early in person. Vote by mail. However you choose to vote, we’re here to make sure it counts.”

The Postal Service notified many states, including Pennsylvania, that it could not guarantee delivery of ballots in accordance with state laws and deadlines. In response to this change by the Postal Service, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf filed a motion in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asking the court to extend the deadline to receive eligible ballots to Friday, November 6. Pennsylvania recently passed bipartisan election reforms that expanded early and mail-in voting.

“Pennsylvania officials are taking all the steps necessary to ensure voting is convenient and secure this November,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “Thanks to modernized election laws, Pennsylvanians can now easily vote early, or by mail. However you choose to vote, we’re preparing so your vote is counted and secure.”

Attorney General Shapiro’s multi-state lawsuit will assert the Postal Service unlawfully implemented widespread changes to mail service nationwide. The suit seeks to immediately reverse the agency’s actions, and guarantee safeguards and standards for election mail.

Postal Service Changes

Recent changes at the Postal Service instituted by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have already resulted in mail delays. Those changes include requiring late-arriving mail to be left for delivery the following day, and limiting the length of shifts, meaning not all mail that goes out for delivery is delivered.

The changes at the Postal Service come as President Donald Trump has continued to baselessly claim that widespread vote-by-mail will lead to a fraudulent election. The President’s campaign has also sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, seeking to prevent voters from returning their ballots at secure drop boxes.

Legal claims

Ferguson and Shapiro will assert that the Postal Service has acted outside of its authority to implement changes to the postal system, and did not follow the proper procedures required by federal law.

Changes at the U.S. Postal Service that cause a nationwide impact in mail service must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission then evaluates the proposal through a procedure that includes public notice and comment. The Postal Service’s sudden and unilateral changes to the nature of postal services deprived the States of their procedural right to comment on such changes prior to implementation as established by federal law.

Changes also impede States efforts to conduct free and fair elections, a right and authority granted to them by the Constitution. Act 77 in Pennsylvania was passed, on a bipartisan basis, in October, 2019, and gives Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote and instituted no-excuse mail-in voting. Actions to undermine the efficacy of the Postal Service also undermine States’ ability to conduct elections in a manner their respective legislature has chosen.

The lawsuits seek to block the unlawful cuts and operational changes at the Postal Service.

Washington and Pennsylvania are leading separate legal actions in the coming days. Pennsylvania will be joined by California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina in the suit among other states.

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