Postmaster General suspends USPS changes as states plan to file federal lawsuits

The U.S. Postal Service is the largest employer in some states, employing more than 600,000 workers nationwide.

Katherine Kealey

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would be suspending recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) until after the election as more than 20 Democratic states plan to file federal lawsuits.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she supports mail-in voting but it is not in the best interest of the state to sue the post office.

“This is an issue that has been ongoing for quite some time, and I mean how timely is a lawsuit?” Reynolds said. “So I think there are other things that we can do that are more productive to address the situation and I think that starts by Congress sitting around the table, having a conversation and figuring out what they can do to serve the constituents that they represent.”

The Democratic attorneys general argue DeJoy’s changes to the mailing procedure are illegal, as the post office prepares for a surplus of mail-in ballots. DeJoy will testify before a Senate committee on Friday as well as the House Oversight Committee next week.

In a statement issued by DeJoy, he writes the Postal Service is ready to meet the challenge of increased mail-in voting and post office hours will not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are, no mail processing facilities will be closed and overtime has and will continue to be approved as needed.

Democrats are continuing to advocate for an urgent $25 billion bailout for USPS, while Republicans are more open to a $10 billion bailout.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” President Donald Trump said in an interview. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.” 

Minnesota joined the lawsuit after complaints of the sudden and transformational changes to the service.

“Despite the venerable history and obvious importance of the Postal Service, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has recently instituted sweeping changes that undermine the Postal Service’s ability to provide consistent and timely service,” according to the Democratic lawsuit filed in Washington state. “DeJoy has called these ‘transformative’ and has acknowledged that they have an ‘impacted our overall service levels.’”

In the Twin Cities area, USPS sorting capacity has reportedly been reduced by approximately 100,000 to 200,000 pieces of mail per hour and at least three mail sorting machines have been decommissioned in Minneapolis in the past months.

Six more are scheduled for decommissioning, according to a release from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. 

“Minnesotans and Americans everywhere are in the grips of a deadly global pandemic, the likes of which no one has seen in a century,” Attorney General Ellison said. In this environment, President Trump and his administration have taken sudden, dramatic and unprecedented steps to undermine one of the longest-standing, most trusted institutions in America: our post office, which we rely on for everything from masks and life-saving medications to exercising our right to vote. For the administration to attack the Postal Service at this critical moment in our history is deeply disturbing. It requires that we step forward immediately to protect this public service, our right to vote and people’s lives.” 

The Postal Service has existed since colonial times and was an essential resource for communication. Even though technology has changed, the postal system is still used for things like first-class mail.

Political science chairman, Mack Shelley, said if the USPS was gutted, rural areas would lose access to first-class-type mail, making receiving packages much more difficult.

Much of parcel postage delivery has been privatized by companies like FedEx. Shelley said Republicans have been looking to privatize the mail system for quite some time. In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring USPS to prefund 75 years worth of retired workers’ health benefits, costing about $110 billion, in the span of 10 years. Shelley said no other federal agency is required to do this. 

“This is not an accident, this is done with malice aforethought, to deliberately make the postal system run major deficits and to kind of build this argument for privatization,” Shelley said. 

Political science lecturer, Zack Bonner, said because elections and the post office is funded by the U.S. government, reductions in spending for the post office could indirectly impact the election turnout.  

“If you have a huge $25 billion reduction in spending that might impact who is going to vote in what way,” Bonner said. “Turnout might be OK because people might just be very motivated to get out despite coronavirus issues arising, but I think it would definitely hinder people if they can’t mail in a ballot or if they don’t feel safe standing in line.” 

Trump has stated if the United States switched to all-mail voting, “you’d never have Republican elected in this country again,” and he is not the first Republican to make claims against mail-in. The GOP Speaker of the House in Georgia, David Ralston, has made claims stating all-mail elections would be “extremely devastating to Republicans.”

“It is very clear Trump’s point, the Republicans point in general, is to make it easier for their voters to show up and make it harder for the other side,” Shelley said. “And there is nothing necessarily shocking about that, it’s like well duh, if you are trying to stay in power this is what you do. Is it fair? No. Is it legal? Well if what you are doing is screwing with the Postal Service to prevent people from voting, this is something you would think would put people behind bars pretty quickly even if there isn’t a statutory law that says ‘you can not do this,’ it is way beyond unfair, it literally is a criminal act.”