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NC Attorney General files lawsuit against Postmaster General ahead of 2020 election

The lawsuit says ballots may not be sent or received in time and some voters may simply not vote out of concern their ballot won't get counted.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and six other attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service Friday, challenging that its "recent unlawful actions undermine effective Postal Service operations and North Carolinians' ability to vote by mail." 

The lawsuit seeks to reverse the USPS' operational changes that have delayed the delivery of mail, including the removal of postal sorting machines, and to ensure North Carolinians who vote by mail will have their vote counted. Stein filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the attorneys general of Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine and Massachusetts.

“The Postal Service is a foundational American institution, and one that is vital to our daily lives,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “The Postal Service is how we pay bills, get our medications, and conduct business. But we especially need the Postal Service to be delivering mail on time during a pandemic and weeks before an election that will see more North Carolinians voting by mail than ever before. The Postmaster General’s recent statements are not enough. We need binding commitments that restore the Postal Service’s operations. I will fight to ensure that the Postal Service is preserved and every North Carolinian’s vote is counted.”

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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, pressed by senators over mail delivery disruptions, said Friday he was unaware of changes that sparked a public uproar, but his responses raised fresh questions about how the Postal Service will ensure timely delivery of ballots for the November election. 

DeJoy told senators he has zero plans to restore blue mailboxes and sorting equipment that have been removed, saying they are “not needed.” He did say that election mail would continue to be prioritized for delivery as in years past.

The attorneys general are challenging several recent operational and policy changes that have led to significant delays in mail delivery across the country. These changes, which have resulted in mail delays and pile-ups at multiple points in the mail delivery process, include:

  • Prohibiting late or extra trips by postal workers that are necessary to deliver mail on time.
  • Requiring carriers to adhere to start and stop times regardless of whether all the mail for their route has arrived or been delivered.
  • Limiting the use of overtime.

The Postal Service has implemented these changes weeks before the 2020 general election, during which more people will vote by mail than ever before to lower health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. The changes follow a longer effort by the Trump administration to undermine confidence in vote by mail and the results of the 2020 elections. In North Carolina, nearly 300,000 people have requested mail-in ballots, more than 10 times the number of requests submitted at this time in 2016.

RELATED: Postmaster says it's a 'sacred duty' to ensure timely election mail

Last week, the Postal Service notified many states, including North Carolina, that it could not guarantee delivery of ballots in accordance with state laws and deadlines. While Postmaster General Louis DeJoy claimed earlier this week that certain Postal Services initiatives would be suspended, he did not clarify which initiatives he was referring to. He also failed to clarify whether the Postal Service would now guarantee delivery of ballots.

The lawsuit alleges that the Postal Service and the Postmaster General violated the Postal Reorganization Act, the elections clause and the electors clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the 26th amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right to vote.