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September 17, 2020 4:45 PM, EDT

DeJoy Ordered to Halt Post Office Changes Ahead of Election

A federal judge in Washington has ordered that the USPS reverse changes before the election.Postmaster General Louis DeJoy listens during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington on Aug. 24. (Tom Williams/Bloomberg News)

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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was ordered by a court to halt operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that triggered fear of a botched tally of mail-in ballots during the presidential election, Washington state’s attorney general said.

A federal judge in Yakima, Wash., granted a nationwide injunction sought by several states that had accused DeJoy, a longtime Republican donor, of implementing changes that could delay delivery of time-sensitive absentee ballots and undermine confidence in election results in November, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a tweet. Voting by mail rather than in person is expected to surge because of the pandemic.

The ruling couldn’t immediately be confirmed in electronic court records.

DeJoy had previously assured Congress that he would halt some of the major changes he put in motion at the USPS until after the Nov. 3 election to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” But that was little comfort to Democratic state officials who said a court order was necessary to prevent further damage to USPS services and efficiency.

In a call with state election officials Sept. 17, DeJoy said delivering ballots “is the organization’s top priority between now and Election Day, and that the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to handle the nation’s election mail for those who decide to utilize the mail to vote,” according to a USPS statement.

The decision comes as state election officials continue to urge voters to request absentee ballots as soon as possible in light of reports of widespread USPS operational delays. Democrats and Republicans also are battling in courts across the U.S. over deadlines for accepting mail-in ballots, with some arguing the USPS delays justify extending deadlines to several days after Election Day.

RELATED: Judge Orders USPS to Provide Info on Service Changes

The states allege that DeJoy’s changes, including removal of mail-sorting machines and mailboxes, were made without proper regulatory approval. They also suggest the changes were curiously timed during a pandemic that is expected to lead to a record number of mailed ballots.

The lawsuit — one of three multistate cases against DeJoy and the USPS — includes allegations that the changes could ultimately benefit President Donald Trump by undermining a voting method that Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to massive fraud and a stolen election. DeJoy, who started the job in May, has denied implementing any changes to help Trump.

Several Democratic attorneys general from the states have used tough language to describe the USPS changes, saying they amounted to voter suppression designed to help Trump.

“These authoritarian actions are not only jeopardizing our democracy and fundamental right to vote, but the immediate health and financial well-being of Americans across the nation,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said when her suit was filed.

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