U.S. Postal Service agrees to reverse service changes as election looms
The U.S. Postal Service agreed Wednesday to reverse changes that slowed mail service nationwide, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock during a pandemic that is expected to spur many more people to vote by mail.
The lawsuit filed against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the USPS on Sept. 9 argued that changes implemented in June harmed access to mail services in Montana, resulting in delayed delivery of medical prescriptions, payments and job applications, and impeding the ability of Montana residents to vote by mail.
The postal service agreed to reverse all changes, which included reduced retail hours, removal of collection boxes and mail-sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail-processing facilities, restriction of late or extra trips for timely mail delivery, and bans or restrictions on overtime.
The agreement also requires the Postal Service to prioritize election mail.
The settlement agreement was reached a day ahead of a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Great Falls. It applies to all 50 states.
“Montanans never gave up this fight, and as a result, we are ensuring stability through and beyond the election by immediately restoring the mail services folks rely on, whether it’s receiving vital medication or ensuring they can pay their bills on time,” Bullock said in a statement.
New rules requiring U.S. Postal Service trucks to leave exactly on schedule went relatively unnoticed amid the public outcry over the removal of sorting machines across the country — but they were far more disruptive to mail delivery.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Many more people are expected to vote by mail this November to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The majority of Montana counties are holding elections by mail, after a directive by Bullock permitted them to do so. Bullock, a Democrat, is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The agreement comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked the controversial USPS changes Sept. 17, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Wash., issued the nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states, including California, that brought forward a separate suit against the Trump administration and the USPS. The 14 states, led by Democratic attorneys general, expressed concern that delays might result in voters not receiving ballots or registration forms in time.
Following a national uproar last month, DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump and the GOP, announced he was suspending some of the changes, including the removal of mail-collection boxes, but other changes remained in place.
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