DENVER, CO — Colorado has joined a multi-state federal lawsuit against the United States Postal Service over cuts and operational changes, Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Tuesday. Just hours after the announcement, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he will suspend recent policies.
Many lawmakers said the cuts would threaten critical mail delivery ahead of the November election.
The U.S. Postal Service notified states that it would end its longstanding practice of processing ballots as first-class mail, regardless of what type of postage is used. States and counties that use marketing or bulk-rate postage for their ballots could experience delays that may prevent some ballots from being counted, Weiser said.
The new operational changes also included reduced staff overtime compensation and an earlier end-of-day deadline for mail processing.
“Coloradans depend on the U.S. Postal Service to conduct business, pay bills, order prescriptions, and to vote by mail," Weiser said in a statement. "The sweeping changes that the Postmaster General implemented at the Postal Service are illegal and threaten to undermine our state’s independent authority to conduct elections.
"Every Coloradan who uses the Postal Service for essential and time-sensitive items should be alarmed. We are bringing this lawsuit to fight for every citizen’s constitutional right to vote and to protect our State’s ability to manage our reliable, safe, and easy-to-use vote at home election system,”
Colorado joined Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan in the suit.
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The lawsuit accused Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of acting outside his authority and not following the proper procedures required by federal law to implement the changes. Under 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, which evaluates the proposal through a procedure that includes public notice and comment.
The postmaster general issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country. There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge. I want to make a few things clear:
The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.
I am announcing today the expansion of our current leadership taskforce on election mail to enhance our ongoing work and partnership with state and local election officials in jurisdictions throughout the country. Leaders of our postal unions and management associations have committed to joining this taskforce to ensure strong coordination throughout our organization. Because of the unprecedented demands of the 2020 election, this taskforce will help ensure that election officials and voters are well informed and fully supported by the Postal Service.
I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.
I want to assure all Americans of the following:
Retail hours at Post Offices will not change.
Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.
No mail processing facilities will be closed.
And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.
In addition, effective Oct. 1, we will engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.
I am grateful for the commitment and dedication of all the men and women of the Postal Service, and the trust they earn from the American public every day, especially as we continue to contend with the impacts of COVID-19. As we move forward, they will have the full support of our organization throughout the election.”