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Judge approves deal to expedite Georgia runoff ballots

A federal judge on Thursday approved an agreement between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and civil rights groups that would implement measures to ensure that absentee ballots in Georgia are delivered in time for the state's two Senate runoff elections next month.

The parties submitted the agreement to the court late Wednesday in an effort to "avoid the cost and burden of further litigation between now and the Georgia Runoff Elections."

The agreement is the result of numerous ongoing lawsuits filed by groups such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Vote Forward that were originally in response to the Trump administration's Postal Service cutbacks.

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"Every ballot must be counted, and this agreement with the USPS is a significant step in ensuring that the mail-in voting process for the Georgia runoff election will ensure the timely delivery of ballots,” Sam Spital, the Legal Defense Fund's litigation director, said in a statement. “The agreement provides for the prioritization of ballot delivery, the timely resolution of any delays in the delivery system, and transparency into the USPS process for ensuring that no voters are disenfranchised."

The Department of Justice, which is representing the Postal Service in the cases, has appealed court orders striking down Postmaster General 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's directives issued earlier this year to cut back on delivery services.

DeJoy issued sweeping changes to personnel, equipment and other services in June and July, citing the need to reduce costs amid the coronavirus pandemic. The move prompted pushback from Democrats and critics who accused the postmaster, a pick of President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE's, of trying to help the president win reelection. 

The agreement will require Georgia postal facilities to regularly sweep for undelivered ballots until the Jan. 5 election and continue to use expedited delivery services for mail-in ballots.

The plaintiffs agreed to not ask the federal district court in Washington, D.C., for any further orders in their cases until after the elections.

The two Senate races in Georgia will decide which party will control the upper chamber as President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE takes office.

The news of the deal comes as the Postal Service has experienced severe delays in mail during the holidays.