U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is trying to cripple the viability of mail-in voting for millions of Americans by intentionally disrupting the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), according to lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday by a coalition of voting rights groups.
The National Urban League’s 37-page filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland is the latest legal volleys against the long-planned revamp of the revered agency’s “organizational structure.”
“We are determined that the Constitutionally-established institutions of our government will not be twisted into service of the President’s reelection campaign, and we will not abandon those who depend upon the Postal Service for life-sustaining deliveries,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said in a statement.
The lawsuit accuses DeJoy of instituting “sweeping changes to the Postal Service’s policies and procedures with the purpose and intent to sabotage mail-in voting in the upcoming 2020 national elections.”
And, the coalition claims, this action is expressly unconstitutional.
“[DeJoy and the USPS] have violated the United States Constitution’s guarantee of free expression and have unconstitutionally burdened the fundamental right to vote,” the complaint alleges. “Their actions were taken without observance of procedure required by law, in excess of their statutory authority, and in violation of the statutory duties of the Postal Service. [Dejoy’s] actions will interfere—and are designed to interfere—with the ability of state and local officials to administer fair elections and of voters to exercise their fundamental rights to vote and to use the Postal Service to cast their ballots.”
On Tuesday, the postmaster general acknowledged the unseemly optics of those recent changes–and promised that his agency would put the kibosh on any additional “operational initiatives” that would further diminish mail services prior to the 2020 general election.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy claimed.
The voting rights plaintiffs specifically cite that broader statement in their lawsuit–and they say it’s just not enough.
“Postmaster General DeJoy’s August 18, 2018, statement that he is ‘suspending’ certain ‘initiatives’ ‘until after the election’ does nothing to lessen the overwhelming need for swift relief from this Court,” the lawsuit continues. “The Postmaster General has not committed to replacing mail sorting machines and collection boxes [DeJoy and the USPS] have already removed; to administering overtime as it was administered before Postmaster General DeJoy began his tenure; to rescinding his directives to Postal Service workers to leave mail behind, cease work immediately when their shifts end, and wait to sort mail until later in the day; or to reversing the policy of not treating all election mail as priority mail.”
President Donald Trump’s well-documented animosity toward universal mail-in voting is also cited as evidence of the ulterior motive behind the previously bi-partisan neoliberal reforms that DeJoy has instituted in recent months.
“Statements by the President remove any doubt that these efforts have been undertaken with the purpose of denying the right to vote to voters who use mail-in ballots—and, specifically, voters who intend to vote for his political opponents,” the filing alleges. “The President has stated, clearly and unequivocally, that these actions were taken to undermine the ability of people to rely on the Postal Service to vote because the President believes that undermining the Postal Service will help him in upcoming elections. The President could not have made his views any clearer: ‘MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO . . . THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY.'”
Noting that DeJoy’s actions “have already caused widespread delays in mail delivery,” the lawsuit claims that diminished service is part of a broader plan to “intentionally undermine the Postal Service to affect the election” and repeatedly diminishes the worth of DeJoy’s Tuesday statement.
Per the filing, at length:
Postmaster General DeJoy’s statement does not lessen Plaintiffs’ need for immediate relief from this Court. Some of the actions Postmaster General DeJoy commits to “suspending” are not actions Plaintiffs challenge in this lawsuit and are unlikely to affect the election (e.g., retail hours at post offices). Other commitments are equivocal, like the Postmaster’s commitment to approve overtime “as needed” and to “engage” resources “to satisfy any unforeseen demand.” Nothing in the statement commits to remedying any of the Transformative Actions already undertaken—such as the removal of collection boxes and sorting machines and the de-prioritization of election mail—that have already impacted mail delivery and will likely have a devastating impact on the ability of Americans to vote in the upcoming election, unless ordered reversed by this Court. Moreover, absent a court order, any and all of these commitments are subject to change at any time.
“The right to vote is at the very core of democracy,” the lawsuit goes on. “Indeed, it defines it. The Postmaster General’s statement is simply not enough to dispel the need for judicial action in light of Defendants’ unlawful and unconstitutional conduct. The stakes are too high.”
The plaintiffs are suing DeJoy and the USPS alleging: (1) violation of the U.S. Constitution’s right to vote; (2) violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition against viewpoint and content discrimination; (3) a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act; and (4) for acting beyond their legal authority.
Read the full filing below:
[image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]