U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan sided with New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, San Francisco and New York City by barring Postal Service delivery cuts prior to the presidential election. These cities and states have argued that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy failed to submit changes he had made to regular operations to the Postal Regulatory Commission. These changes included the removal of ballot collection boxes and high-speed mail-sorting equipment, which DeJoy told Congress he had no intention of returning.

These statements were the latest in a series of court opinions that changes in Postal Service’s techniques for accepting, delivering and sorting mail will harm efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“It is clearly in the public interest to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to ensure safe alternatives to in-person voting, and to require that the USPS comply with the law,” Sullivan wrote Sunday in a 39-page opinion.

Eighty million citizens are expected to vote by mail, mainly due to the desire to not vote in person because of coronavirus. Anywhere from 3.7 percent to 9.3 percent are expected to wait until the Saturday before Election Day to send in their ballot. Twenty-eight states require ballots to be received by Election Day, and so any delay caused by the USPS poses a national threat to the American citizen’s right to vote.

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“The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election,” wrote Manhattan federal judge Victor Marrero on September 21, ordering the Postal Service to prioritize any ballots or election mail.

In a House hearing last month, DeJoy denied allegations that he was interfering with the election, and stated many USPS policy changes were already in place before he took office in June.

The Postal Service has recently stated they will not reduce overtime, cut retail hours or close processing equipment. The USPS said it will not be removing any more collection boxes or sorting equipment. They also have promised to continue labeling any election-related mail as first-class mail, despite if it paid as first-class or not.

In Sullivan’s decision on Sunday, he also discovered that 711 high-speed sorting machines have been removed around the country by the USPS, which equates to a 15% reduction in capacity of sorting machines, or 30 million pieces of paper per hour. USPS records show a reduction of 8-10% in the timeliness of First-Class Mail delivery from June to August.

By August, 52 machines in New York, 27 machines in New Jersey, seven machines in San Francisco and four in Hawaii had been removed by the USPS. Sorting capacity fell from 300,000 to 200,000 in Hawaii, and on July 11, three towns in western New York that ordinarily receive 80,000 pieces of mail a day got zero.

“The burden the USPS policy changes place on (the) constitutional right to vote and have their voted counted is significant,” Sullivan stated. “At risk is disenfranchisement in the November election of potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals.”

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