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Washington v. Trump

Issues: Whether recent changes announced to the United States Postal Service violate federal administrative rulemaking requirements and infringe upon the rights of states to regulate elections under the Constitution.
State: Washington
Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
Status: USPS changes suspended nationwide

This lawsuit challenges some of the controversial and well-publicized changes to the operation of the Postal Service implemented by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. In July 2020, the Postal Service instituted a set of policies that have collectively been referred to as the “Leave Mail Behind” policy. Among other things, the policy directs letter carriers – contrary to the training that they have traditionally received – to leave for their routes on time and to make just one trip, even if it means leaving mail behind.

A group of 14 states, led by Washington, went to federal court to challenge the policy, which they contend was introduced for political, rather than business, reasons. They argued that the policy, along with a decision by USPS to no longer treat election mail as first-class mail, has caused delays in delivery and postmarking that could disenfranchise voters. Before making these kinds of changes, they alleged, USPS should have asked the Postal Regulatory Commission, which is an independent agency that has the power to review the USPS’ policies and performance, to weigh in.

On September 20, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian issued an order that temporarily blocks USPS from implementing the changes outlined in the July 2020 policy and requires USPS to treat election mail as first-class mail. Bastian explained that even if it is “not necessarily apparent on the surface, at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.” To support this conclusion, Bastian pointed to the president’s “highly partisan words and tweets, the actual impact of the changes on primary elections that resulted in uncounted ballots, and recent attempts and lawsuits by the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign to stop the States’ efforts to bypass the Postal Service by utilizing ballot drop boxes, as well as the timing of the changes.” And his order must apply nationwide, Bastian reasoned, because it is “easy to envision situations where the mail needs to cross state lines, for example, residents who are residing out of state and want to send in an absentee ballot.”

 
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