Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan joins AGs in suing Trump admin. over postal changes

By: - August 18, 2020 4:50 pm

President Donald J. Trump at Blue House Sunday, June 30, 2019 in Seoul. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

Michigan is one of 13 states filing a lawsuit on Tuesday against the federal government over recent “unlawful” changes to the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) operations that have led to widespread slowdowns in service and concerns about the impact on mail-in voting for the November election.

The lawsuit is led by Washington state. The announcement Tuesday afternoon from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson came as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he will halt a series of sweeping policy changes to USPS until after the general elections this fall, as the Advance previously reported.

“For partisan gain, President Trump is attempting to destroy a critical institution that is essential for millions of Americans,” Ferguson said. “We rely on the Postal Service for our Social Security benefits, prescriptions — and exercising our right to vote. Our coalition will fight to protect the Postal Service and uphold the rule of law in federal court.”

With the support of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today that Michigan will join the lawsuit. The state of Pennsylvania is leading a similar lawsuit.

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The lawsuit Michigan joins will argue that the changes proposed and already implemented by DeJoy “are both procedurally and substantively unlawful and threaten the timely delivery of mail to individuals who rely on the USPS for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.”

Under federal law, changes to USPS operations that affect nationwide mail service must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission and the public must be provided an opportunity to comment, the attorney general’s office said.

“General DeJoy never engaged in that process here,” the lawsuit states. “As a matter of substance, these changes will have a wide range of negative consequences that violate a diverse array of federal laws, from harming individuals with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act to disenfranchising voters in violation of the Constitution.”

The lawsuit is to be filed in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington.

“Recent actions taken by Mr. DeJoy are unlawful and indicate an attempt to disrupt and delay U.S. Postal Service operations,” Nessel said. “For more than 200 years, the postal service has been a fundamental part of the fabric of this country. People and businesses rely on it to deliver critical medications, correspondence and goods. We filed this lawsuit on behalf of the people of this state to ensure they can continue to depend on a system that is an integral part of our daily lives, our economic well-being and our democratic process.”

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DeJoy’s changes include eliminating overtime for USPS employees, instructing carriers to leave mail behind for the following day, reducing operating hours, removing mailboxes and decommissioning sorting machines.

The Postal Service also recently notified states that it will end its longstanding practice of processing ballots as first-class mail — regardless of what type of postage is used. States and counties that use marketing or bulk-rate postage for their ballots could experience delays that may prevent some ballots from being counted. First-class mail normally has a delivery standard of two to five days, and nonprofit marketing mail has a delivery standard of three to 10 days.

These USPS changes have taken place as Trump has spread misinformation about mail-in voting, falsely claiming that it will help Democrats and lead to fraud.

“President Trump’s attempts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service are deeply disturbing, and we intend to do everything in our power to mitigate their effect on Michigan residents,” said Whitmer. “Americans rely on our Postal Service for prescription drugs, voting, Social Security checks and more. The president is putting families’ health and safety at risk in his attempt to suppress votes in the 2020 election. That’s why Attorney General Nessel, Secretary Benson and I are fighting these unlawful changes to USPS operations to protect Michigan families.”

The other states in the coalition are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.