Postal Service Agrees to Reverse System Cutbacks Before Election

FILE – In this May 6, 2020, photo, United States Postal Service carrier Henrietta Dixon gets into her truck to deliver mail in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(CN) — With 19 days until Election Day, the U.S. Postal Service has agreed to undo changes that gummed up services across the country and promised to prioritize delivery of mail-in-ballots.

The Trump administration rolled out changes earlier this year that altered the way the U.S. Postal Service operated, throwing into doubt whether voters casting their ballot by mail during the coronavirus pandemic would arrive in time to be counted.

Several states teamed up to sue the post office in August. Last month, a federal judge in Washington state called the changes “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” and issued a temporary injunction.

But late Wednesday, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced a settlement in a federal lawsuit he filed last month against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the U.S. Postal Service.

“After I filed a lawsuit, Postmaster General DeJoy has agreed to reverse the changes that were harmful to Montanans’ access to the post office,” said Bullock in a statement. “Montanans never gave up this fight, and as a result, we are ensuring mail services will be immediately restored.”

In his complaint, Bullock claimed the changes hampered “the flow of mail, including medical prescriptions, replacement parts for farm machines, utility bills, stimulus checks, applications for jobs and higher education, and other essential communications” along with the delivery of mail-in-ballots.

In a 9-page joint stipulation filed with the District Court of Montana on Wednesday, Bullock announced the settlement that will reverse the many changes rolled out under DeJoy’s watch.

Those changes included cutting retail hours at post offices across the country, removal of collection boxes, consolidation of processing centers and removal of sorting machines.

The agreement also requires the court to retain jurisdiction over the situation to ensure the U.S. Postal Service complies with the terms of the settlement.

Under the agreement Bullock will dismiss his lawsuit on Nov. 30 “so long as there are no unresolved disputes” with the post office.

In a statement, the Postal Service said it has “implemented guidance documents making clear that the operational changes of concern to Governor Bullock are not an issue for the 2020 November election.”

The independent agency added: “The Postal Service was willing to resolve this matter because it has always been our goal to ensure that anyone who chooses to utilize the mail to vote can do so successfully.  This settlement underscores our unwavering commitment to that principle and to our important role in the nation’s electoral process.”

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