Civil Rights Groups Just Sued to Stop Louis DeJoy From Destroying the USPS

The lawsuit seeks to force the USPS to not only back off its threatened changes but also proactively repair damage already done.
August 19, 2020, 6:00pm
A USPS worker wheels mail in Kips Bay on August 18, 2020 in New York City.

A coalition of major civil and voting rights organizations has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service, seeking to force the agency to reverse recent actions that have slowed mail delivery and could undercut the November election.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night, seeks to get USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to not only halt further changes that could stall delivery times but also take actions to reverse the damage already caused by recent changes.

“In just two short months, Louis DeJoy has wreaked havoc across the country with reckless policies,” said Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “There is no doubt: DeJoy is weaponizing the USPS to disenfranchise Americans who choose to vote by mail amid an unprecedented pandemic.”

The lawsuit was filed in Maryland jointly by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the National Urban League.

Since DeJoy took over at USPS in June, he’s made major changes that have delayed mail across the nation — a big problem for many reasons, not the least of which is worsening the delay in mail ballots in an election where many more people plan to vote by mail to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus. President Trump made it clear last week that he was happy to see the USPS struggle and didn’t want to approve more funds for th e service because of his animosity toward mail voting.

DeJoy, a Trump crony who owns a logistics firm but got his job largely because he was a major Republican donor, issued a Tuesday statement seeking to calm outrage about his actions. He pledged to pause his planned changes before the election, as well as changes that had begun before he became head of the USPS that could undermine the election by delaying mail ballots and potentially disenfranchising voters. But that statement rang hollow since many of the changes he’s already pushed through have damaged the post office’s operational capacity. But that statement rang hollow since many of the changes he’s already pushed through have damaged the post office’s operational capacity.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” he said in a Tuesday statement.

But that promise might not mean much: As Motherboard scooped, the USPS, at DeJoy’s orders, has already decommissioned hundreds of mail sorting machines and removed an untold number of mailboxes in recent weeks. Clarke said her organization had uncovered information that showed that the USPS was decommissioning at least 671 high-volume sorting machines, a number even higher than the 502 that Motherboard had reported.

“There is a tremendous amount of damage that has already been done,” said Virginia Case, CEO of the League of Women Voters. “They must create a clear plan detailing how the agency will get through the backlog of mail delivery to ensure timely mail delivery for the election.”

The rights groups involved in the suit specifically want to see the USPS reverse new policies that prohibit workers from making extra trips or stop more than four times on a route to pick up ballots, reverse a new rule that forces mail drivers to leave on a scheduled time rather than when mail is sorted and ready to be deliver, reinstate all the sorting machines and mailboxes that had been taken out of service, end the current hiring freeze, and allow overtime, which the USPS insists hasn’t been banned but USPS drivers says in practice has been all but eliminated.

DeJoy will soon be in the hot seat: He’ll be grilled by lawmakers at a Senate hearing on Friday and a House hearing on Monday. House Democrats are also pushing for legislation that would help boost funds to the ailing USPS, which is facing a funding shortfall that’s largely outside of its control.

Cover: A USPS worker wheels mail in Kips Bay on August 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)