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October 28, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

USPS Ordered to Increase Late Trips for Election Mail

A USPS truck drives in Crockett, Calif., on Aug. 17.A USPS truck drives in Crockett, Calif., on Aug. 17. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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A federal judge ordered Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to immediately begin authorizing more late delivery trips after an earlier injunction against the U.S. Postal Service’s disruptive operational changes failed to improve performance before the Nov. 3 election.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington late Oct. 27 granted an emergency request to enforce and monitor compliance with the earlier injunction. His ruling is a victory for civil rights groups and Democratic-led states that alleged in several lawsuits that the USPS changes would undermine the election to the benefit of President Donald Trump.

“USPS personnel are instructed to perform late and extra trips to the maximum extent necessary to increase on-time mail deliveries, particularly for election mail,” Sullivan said. “To be clear, late and extra trips should be performed to the same or greater degree than they were performed prior to July 2020 when doing so would increase on-time mail deliveries.”

RELATED: In Mail-In Vote Dispute, USPS Argues It Makes No Delivery Guarantees

Mail delivery has taken on a new urgency amid a surge in use of mail-in ballots during the pandemic and Republican efforts to block ballots from being counted after Election Day even if they’re mailed on time. And conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court signaled this week that any ballots counted after Election Day could lead to “charges of a rigged election.”

Sullivan gave DeJoy until Oct. 29 to distribute guidance to USPS leadership across the country with state-specific statutory ballot receipt deadlines and remind them of the need to “ensure that completed ballots reach the appropriate election official by the state’s designated deadline.”

Sullivan ordered DeJoy to issue a one-page notice advising leadership across the country to rescind July guidance limiting the use of late and extra delivery trips. The USPS has argued that it was complying with the earlier injunction and that data showing a sharp drop in the use of overtime and late trips had nothing to do with election mail. The judge said he wants to be updated daily by the USPS on its use of late trips.

USPS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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