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Federal judge says DeJoy changes to postal service before 2020 election harmed delivery

A federal judge found on Wednesday that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s changes to the U.S. Postal Service before the 2020 election harmed mail delivery.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the U.S. Postal Service failed to seek the advice of Regulatory Commission, as was required, before making the substantial changes that resulted in slowed delivery.

Sullivan noted that the several states, counties and cities who filed suit against DeJoy and Service had shown that the delays affected their ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide safe alternatives to in-person voting. 

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“Indeed, after the changes were implemented, the record shows that service scores precipitously declined in late July and had not fully rebounded by October 2020,” Sullivan wrote, concluding that the harm caused was “fairly traceable” to the agency’s changes.

In June and July 2020, DeJoy implemented several significant changes to the U.S. Postal Service. As part of an initiative to optimize the number of sorting machines, the agency eliminated several hundred machines in a two-month span. 

The agency also sought to reduce unearned overtime, eliminate late and extra trips, and move sorting to the afternoon to start routes earlier. The U.S. Postal Service’s general counsel also told many states that if they did not pay first class postage on ballots that voters might not receive them in time to return them by mail. 

Most of these changes were reversed or paused in the following months. The agency halted the removal of sorting machines until after the 2020 election and instructed its employees to prioritize election mail no matter the paid class. 

The initiative to move to move sorting to the afternoon was completely scrapped, while the efforts to reduce overtime and late and extra trips were clarified to note that the overtime and additional trips were not banned. However, the effects lingered, with confusion over the “conflicting messaging.”