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October 23, 2020 10:15 AM, EDT

USPS Ordered to Restore High-Speed Machines for Election Mail

A USPS delivery truck in San Diego, Calif., on Sept. 2, 2020.(Bing Guan/Bloomberg News)

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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to restore high-speed mail-sorting machines at any facilities that are unable to process first-class election mail quickly enough — a major concern for states as the postal agency continues to struggle with service performance.

The order late Oct. 22 by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington is a win for a group of states that successfully sued USPS and President Donald Trump to halt a series of operational changes that hobbled the postal service just before an expected surge in use of mail-in ballots during the pandemic.

At struggling facilities, “available processing equipment will be restored to service to ensure that USPS can comply with its prior policy of delivering election mail in accordance with first-class delivery standards,” the judge said.

RELATED: States Lose Fight to Get USPS Outside Monitor for Election Mail

The order was intended to clarify a Sept. 27 injunction targeting the operational changes instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor who took the helm at USPS earlier this year. USPS had asked the judge to clarify the scope of the order, arguing that the massive sorting machines DeJoy ordered taken apart over the summer couldn’t be put together again.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led a group of states in the lawsuit — one of three such multistate cases — said in a tweet Oct. 22 that USPS had failed to comply with this injunction.

The USPS didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Sullivan acknowledged the USPS concern that reassembling all such machines “may not be possible,” but ordered it done anyway at any facility that can’t keep up with delivery election mail, such as mail ballots, as first-class mail.

In a Pennsylvania case, a judge on Oct. 21 denied the state’s request to appoint an independent monitor to ensure the USPS followed through on its court-ordered commitments.

DeJoy’s changes included bans on employee overtime and late delivery trips that helped ensure delivery of millions of pieces of mail, as well as a policy to disassemble hundreds of mail-sorting machines, a change that particularly hit high-density urban areas that lean Democratic. One federal judge said it was “easy to conclude” that the changes were intended to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election.

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