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New York sues Postal Service over agency cutbacks, citing voting concerns

New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Karen DeWitt/WXXI News file photo
New York Attorney General Letitia James.

New York state is suing President Donald Trump and the head of the U.S. Postal Service over recent policy changes that Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday would unconstitutionally limit access to this year’s elections for those who plan to vote by mail.

In a lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., three states and two major cities, including New York City, sought to reverse those changes, including cutbacks to mail service capacity.

“The United States Postal Service has been thrown into chaos,” the lawsuit said. “Thanks to a series of sweeping policy changes beleaguered by partisan meddling, the independent agency has become a political football set to undermine a federal election.”

The U.S. Postal Service, in recent months, proposed a series of policy changes to remove mailboxes and mail sorting machines, cut back on delivery services, and cap overtime for mail carriers.

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Those changes were intended to save money at the agency, which has been financially unstable for a number of years. U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy has since said he’ll delay those changes until after this year’s elections to avoid them being perceived as politically motivated.

That move didn’t stop New York from filing the lawsuit Tuesday. The state was joined on the legal action by the state of Hawaii and New Jersey, and the cities of San Francisco and New York City.

The lawsuit accuses the Trump administration of bypassing procedural safeguards required to make policy changes at the Postal Service, and violating the constitution by potentially interfering with decisions from states to expand mail-in and absentee voting this year.

Many states, including New York, have urged voters to consider voting remotely to avoid exposure to the coronavirus at polling places.

Voters in New York, this year, will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot due to the pandemic. Absentee ballots are usually reserved exclusively for individuals who can’t physically make it to the polls, like if they’re sick or out of the area.

“Americans have been denied vital services, just so that President Trump and his allies can undermine the integrity of our elections,” James said during a press call Tuesday. “We will do everything in our power to stop the president's power grab and ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot come November.”

The U.S. Postal Service declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday. A spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The agency has claimed, in recent days, that it will have the capacity to handle the anticipated rise in absentee and mail-in ballots this year, and that the removal of collection boxes and sorting machines isn’t unusual depending on volume and capacity.

Some mailboxes have been removed in recent months, but the agency has said it doesn’t plan to remove any more until after this year’s elections.

The agency has also said that it plans to work with states to avoid any disruptions in November. In New York, mail delays in June caused some voters to receive their absentee ballots too late to return before the primary election that month.