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Judge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes

A judge issued a nationwide injunction to temporarily halt changes to U.S. Postal Service policies that have delayed mail delivery across the country ahead of a presidential election expected to see record numbers of mail-in ballots. 

Judge Stanley Bastian, an Obama appointee, called the changes “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” that created “a substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised,” according to The Associated Press.

Bastian, who is based in Yakima, Wash., concluded that harm to the public "has already taken place" and said the 14 states that sued showed "this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election," The Washington Post reported

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Bastian ruled from the bench Thursday and said he'd release a written order, as requested by states, later Thursday or Friday, according to news reports. The scope and duration of the injunction were not initially clear as the judge said more detail would come in the written order. 

The Postal Service endured nationwide criticism after implementing changes in July that many blame for slower mail delivery. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyPostal service reversing changes that slowed mail delivery The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for dueling town halls amid battleground blitz High-speed mail sorting machine reassembled in Maine MORE, a donor to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE, announced the suspension of some changes, like the removal of blue mailboxes and mail processing machines, but other adjustments remained in place, prompting 14 states to sue the administration and the Postal Service.  

The states sued to stop the new so-called "leave behind" policy, which instructs trucks to leave facilities promptly whether or not there is more mail to load, according to the AP. The suit also called for election mail to be handled as First Class mail. 

The states involved in the suit included swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada, as well as Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. All 14 states have Democratic attorneys general and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), led the group.

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The attorneys general argued in the suit, filed last month, that the Postal Service made the modifications without consulting the Postal Regulatory Commission for public comment and advisory opinion. Going before the board is required under federal law.

Dave Partenheimer, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, said the agency is "exploring our legal options."

"While we are exploring our legal options, there should be no doubt that the Postal Service is ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives," he said in a statement. "Our number one priority is to deliver election mail on-time."

Lee Moak, the Election Mail Committee chair at the agency, added in a separate statement, "Any suggestion that there is a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service is completely and utterly without merit.”

The injunction comes as a record number of voters are expected to vote by the mail in the 2020 election due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Justice Department attorney Joseph Borson asserted in court that the Postal Service can manage the high volume of expected election mail, saying the previous delays are not occurring anymore, according to the Post. He added the Postal Service hadn't actually made changes with how it manages election mail.

The Postal Service has also said decisions to make the changes came before DeJoy became postmaster general in June.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyIRS closes in on final phase of challenging tax season Virginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register Judge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes MORE (D-Va.) released a statement following the decision saying, "To everyone except Postmaster DeJoy, the Postal Board Governors, and congressional Republicans, the changes at the USPS are evidence of deliberate, political sabotage, and massive voter suppression on the eve of the election."

"This court decision is a win for democracy and every American voter," the statement continued.

Another group of states led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) filed a similar lawsuit last month accusing DeJoy of instituting the changes without  working with the Postal Regulatory Commission. 

Updated at 6:58 p.m.