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Judge orders Postal Service to restore high-speed mail sorting machines

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to restore high-speed mail sorting machines at facilities that cannot process First Class election mail efficiently amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Thursday order was intended to clarify an injunction issued late last month that prevented the Trump administration from enforcing operational changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyJudge orders Postal Service to sweep facilities twice a day for any ballots that can be delivered on time Brent Budowsky: Democracy in America is on trial Postal Service misses court-ordered deadline for unsent mail ballots MORE in June and July that included removing high-speed sorting machines. 

The Postal Service at the time had asked the judge to clarify the order, claiming that the dismantled machines couldn't be put back together again, according to Bloomberg. 

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In the order, Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote that at post offices that cannot process election mail before the Nov. 3 elections, “available processing equipment will be restored to service to ensure that the Postal Service can comply with its prior policy of delivering Election Mail in accordance with First Class delivery standards.” 

The Postal Service also has to provide a status report by Friday at 5 p.m. to inform “the Court of its efforts to comply with this Court’s instructions here and in the previous order.” 

The states of New York, Hawaii and New Jersey, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), sued the Trump administration in late August claiming that actions taken by the administration and the postmaster general were aimed to disrupt mail operations before the elections. San Francisco and New York City also joined the suit. 

On Thursday following Sullivan's order, James said in a statement“For a month now, the Trump Administration has made excuse after excuse to avoid compliance with a court order, all in an effort to further undermine Postal Service operations and impede voters wishing to vote by mail in the November elections." 

“Today’s order makes abundantly clear that the Trump Administration must stop violating the law and must deliver all ballots immediately.”

DeJoy issued sweeping operational changes in June and July including changes to personnel, overtime pay for postal workers and removing mail sorting machines. The administration said that these changes were made to cut costs amid the pandemic.

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However, the changes drew the ire of Democrats and critics, who accused DeJoy of trying to use the changes to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE win reelection. 

In August, shortly before James sued the administration, DeJoy postponed the changes until after the elections amid backlash. 

The news comes as a record number of voters have already cast their ballots by mail in the Nov. 3.

The Postal Service confirmed on Thursday that it has already delivered over 100 million blank or completed mail-in ballots since early September.