(CN) — Attorneys general across the country are joining forces in a lawsuit over operational changes in the U.S. Postal Service put forth by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who said Tuesday those initiatives will be put off until after the presidential election.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the planned legal action. “That means relying on our postal service more than ever during this pandemic. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t stop President Trump from attacking our mail and lying about the facts no matter who gets hurt.”
Becerra added, “So, for the 96th time, we’re taking President Trump to court. No Americans should fear their vote won’t count simply because Donald Trump fears a free and fair election.”
But DeJoy, a staunch Trump supporter and North Carolina businessman who was named postmaster general in May, said in a statement Tuesday that work on service changes will take place after the election.
“There are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” he said.
The postmaster general’s announcement specifies that public collection boxes and mail processing equipment will not be removed, postal workers will be allowed overtime pay and post office hours will not be altered before the election.
“Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards,” DeJoy said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic attorneys general of at least 20 states are gearing up for a multifaceted legal battle over the changes, which are blamed for a recent slowdown in mail delivery as the presidential election nears.
DeJoy says the initiatives were meant to address the Postal Service’s critical financial situation, but Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement that the postmaster general “acted outside of his authority to implement changes to the postal system, and did not follow the proper procedures under federal law.”
The multistate lawsuit will be filed later this week, according to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, and will focus on the Postal Service’s alleged lack of authority to implement the changes that had already begun to take effect before DeJoy’s reversal on Tuesday.
According to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, those changes would disproportionately hurt potential voters in rural communities and communities of color.
“Minnesotans and Americans everywhere are in the grips of a deadly global pandemic, the likes of which no one has seen in a century. In this environment, President Trump and his administration have taken sudden, dramatic, and unprecedented steps to undermine one of the longest-standing, most trusted institutions in America: our post office, which we rely on for everything from masks and life-saving medications to exercising our right to vote,” he said in a statement.
One of the lawsuits announced on Tuesday is being led by Washington state and will be joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Another is expected to come out of Pennsylvania, where just last week a federal judge ordered President Trump’s re-election campaign to provide evidence of mail-in voting fraud in the state to back up the president’s sweeping opposition to voting by mail. Pennsylvania will be joined in that suit by California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
The embattled postmaster general’s about-face on Tuesday comes after weeks of public scrutiny, congressional pressure and a partisan melee over mail-in ballots.
Trump confirmed last week that his attempts to withhold funds from the Postal Service were intended to make it more difficult for voters to cast absentee ballots, claiming without evidence that voting by mail will result in widespread fraud.
On Monday, Trump was slapped with a federal class action by New York political candidates and constituents over the mail slowdown.
Though the president has been feuding with Democrats in Congress over their proposed coronavirus relief package that includes billions of dollars in Postal Service funding, Trump said he would not veto a bill just because it includes relief for the service.
DeJoy, a former GOP fundraiser, is set to testify on Friday before the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing about the service’s finances and operations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that the hearing is a result of pressure from Senate Democrats and the American people. Schumer added that the pressure “forced Senate Republicans to confront Postmaster General DeJoy’s ongoing sabotage of the Postal Service.”
On Aug. 24, DeJoy is expected to appear before the Democrat-led House Oversight and Reform Committee.