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New York leads group of states, cities filing lawsuit challenging Postal Service changes

New York leads group of states, cities filing lawsuit challenging Postal Service changes
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A group of states and cities has sued President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and the U.S. Postal Service over a series of operational changes made at the agency this year, claiming they could interfere with local governments' plans for the November election.

Led by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), the states and cities on Tuesday filed a complaint in federal court in Washington, D.C., asking a judge to declare recent Postal Service policy changes unconstitutional. The group also asked the court to issue an order blocking the agency from implementing any nationwide shifts in service without first seeking an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission. 

Hawaii, New Jersey, New York City and San Francisco joined the state of New York in the lawsuit, which comes as the Postal Service faces mounting scrutiny over mail delivery delays and other issues.

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Six states and Washington, D.C., filed a separate complaint last week alleging that agency changes were undermining the Postal Service's ability to effectively operate.

“This USPS slowdown is nothing more than a voter suppression tactic,” James said in a statement. “Yet, this time, these authoritarian actions are not only jeopardizing our democracy and fundamental right to vote, but the immediate health and financial well-being of Americans across the nation."

"We will do everything in our power to stop the president’s power grab and ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot come November," she added. 

The Postal Service has attracted growing criticism since the appointment of Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyFBI investigating political fundraising of former employees of Postmaster General DeJoy Postal Service raises stamps to 58 cents as part of restructuring plan Lawmakers request investigation into Postal Service's covert operations program MORE as postmaster general. After taking over the agency in June, DeJoy, a major GOP donor, instituted cost-cutting measures including reduced overtime and the removal of some mail-sorting machines.

The changes caused mail delivery delays in multiple locations, which led to fears about how they could impact the expansion of mail-in voting during this year's elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

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The Postal Service sent letters to more than 40 states warning of "inconsistencies" between its delivery service and state deadlines for receiving and counting mail-in ballots, raising the possibility that many votes may not arrive in time to be counted.

Following bipartisan pushback, DeJoy said earlier this month that he would suspend operational changes until after the 2020 election. However, Tuesday's lawsuit cites congressional testimony from DeJoy in which he said he had no intention of returning already-removed collection boxes or sorting equipment.  

The lawsuit claims that the Postal Service was scheduled to reduce its processing capacity by more than 600 machines by this week. New York City has experienced "sorting capacity reductions of over 300,000 pieces of mail per hour," according to the complaint. 

The suit claims that delays caused by these changes will negatively affect states' and cities' efforts to provide safe alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic. 

The House on Saturday passed legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from carrying out the operational changes, but it is unlikely to be approved by the Senate. 

When reached for comment, the agency referred to DeJoy's recent testimony before separate House and Senate committees. DeJoy testified that ensuring mail-in ballots are delivered on time is his "No. 1 priority," though he contended that fears about delays were a "false narrative." 

The Postal Service also said in a statement Monday that it is "fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time."