A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against nationwide operational changes at the US Postal Service that have been critics say were introduced to slow down mail delivery ahead of the November election.
Stanley Bastion, chief judge of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, ruled in favour of 14 Democratic state attorneys general who sued the USPS claiming postmaster general Louis DeJoy broke the law implementing changes to mail delivery across the country.
Mr Bastion, who was appointed by Barack Obama in 2014, said the changes created a substantial possibility voters may be disenfranchised, and the states “may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes”.
"Substantial evidence has been presented that these transformative changes have been done by the Postal Service which has made mail delivery slower and less efficient," Mr Bastian said, according to CNN.
He said the states demonstrated a “politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service, and that it was likely irreparably harm the ability to administer the 2020 election.
Mr Bastion would give more detail to the scope and duration of the injunction in his written order to be issued by Friday, but that it would essentially be in the form presented by the states, The Washington Post reported.
The attorney general of Washington State, which was one of the 14 states that brought the lawsuit – including battleground states Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin - said it was a “huge victory”.
#BREAKING: Huge victory to protect the Postal Service -- Washington state federal judge blocks unlawful USPS policies delaying mail and impacting elections. More to come. Case Background: https://t.co/f5yehcdfja
— Washington State Attorney General (@AGOWA) September 17, 2020
Attorney general Bob Ferguson filed the preliminary injunction on 9 September to force the USPS to treat all election mail as first-class mail.
The injunction sought to stop the service’s “leave mail behind” policy, which requires trucks leave at specific times regardless of whether mail still needs to be loaded. It also sought to require the replacement, reassembly or reconnection of any mail-sorting machines and suspend recent policy changes until after the election.
In his preliminary injunction motion, Mr Ferguson wrote that nationwide relief was also needed for the procedural harm the states suffered by deprivation of their right to comment on the changes before implementation.
“Allowing these ‘transformative changes’ to take effect in much of the country while the (Postal Regulatory Commission) considers whether they should be allowed to take effect would render the legally required notice and comment process a farce,” Mr Ferguson said.