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Watchdog Group Sues Trump Admin to Find Out How USPS Plans to Handle Mail-In Ballots

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House July 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Trump suggested in a tweet that November’s general election should be postponed, citing his unsubstantiated assertions of widespread mail-in voter fraud amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit on Thursday asking a federal judge to order the Trump administration to turn over records pertaining to the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) strategy for dealing with an anticipated influx of ballots cast by mail in the 2020 presidential election.

The complaint stems from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Protect Democracy, an executive branch watchdog group, following the USPS’s failure to provide a response by a legally mandated deadline.

Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a Trump mega-donor with millions of dollars invested in USPS contractors and competitors who was confirmed by the Postal Service’s board of governors in May — the USPS has undergone a slew of worrying transformations including the mass reorganization of top executives and cost-cutting measures. The moves have come amid a ten-fold increase in mail-in voting due to the resurgent pandemic and President Donald Trump’s attempts to prevent expanded access to mail-in ballots.

According to John Paredes, an attorney for Protect Democracy, the group seeks to ensure that the administration is not attempting to purposefully hinder the postal service’s functionality ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“We originally requested expedited handling of our request based on the short timeframe between their policy changes and the election, and – when the Postal Service claimed that the request was overbroad – we narrowed it to make it easier for them to comply,” Paredes said in a statement. “Despite our good faith efforts, they’re still refusing to share the information we’re seeking, which goes to the heart of whether the Trump administration is willfully delaying mail delivery to influence the upcoming election.”

The lawsuit was filed only hours after President Trump said that he was intentionally withholding funding from USPS to stymie the proliferation of universal mail-in voting among the states. The president has frequently complained that expanding access to voting would result in Republicans losing elections.

The initial FOIA request was submitted in late June. It sought the USPS’s “outreach plan” for working with state election officials and political parties to deal with the expected swell of ballots and documents focused on “preparations for handling” the workload.

“Outreach and coordination between USPS and state election offices is critical, given the likelihood that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led so many citizens to elect to vote by mail, will not have abated – and may well have worsened – in the coming months,” the lawsuit states. “Voting in person is likely to remain problematic and unattractive to millions of voters who will expect to be able to exercise the franchise – safely and effectively – by mail.”

The group asked the court to compel the agency to begin turning over documents relevant to the request immediately.

“Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and they cannot occur without the USPS playing its vital role,” Paredes said. “The documents we requested can help provide insight as to whether the USPS is fulfilling its duty to the American people.”

See below for the full lawsuit:

Prot.Dem USPS Complaint by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.