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DeJoy tells judge Postal Service mail-sorting machines can't be reassembled

By Erik Larson, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON - Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told a judge the U.S. Postal Service can't reassemble the hundreds of high-speed mail-sorting machines that were taken apart this year, a project that more than a dozen states allege was intended to undermine the upcoming election.

A nationwide injunction issued last week in Yakima, Washington, should be amended to acknowledge that the machines can't be put back together, DeJoy and the USPS said in a filing in the case on Wednesday. The machines, dismantled under a DeJoy initiative, were stripped for parts to improve or repair other machines, they said.

"It is therefore not possible to return such machines to service," the USPS and DeJoy, a major Republican donor, said in the filing.

The Sept. 17 injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian, requires the USPS to reverse disruptive operational changes implemented by DeJoy, including restrictions on overtime and changes to the handling of election mail, such as absentee ballots applications. The order was sought by a group of Democratic state attorneys general who have sued the postal service.

Bastian has yet to rule on DeJoy's request to amend the injunction.

A second injunction was issued against the USPS this week in a suit brought by voters in federal court in Manhattan. Another group of states is seeking a third nationwide injunction on DeJoy's changes in federal court in Pennsylvania, where arguments took place on Thursday. At that hearing, lawyers for the USPS said delays are being reversed and claimed states were exaggerating the impact of the changes.

 

In his Sept. 17 ruling, Bastian blasted the USPS changes, saying it was "easy to conclude" that DeJoy's effort was intended to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election. The judge noted that 72% of the decommissioned high speed mail-sorting machines were located in counties where Hillary Clinton got the most votes in 2016.

The fight over the USPS changes is part of a broader clash between Republicans and Democrats over an expected surge in voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the increased use of mail-in ballots will lead to a massive fraud and a "rigged" election.

The USPS has said it's prepared for the election and repeatedly denied that the operational changes instituted in July were intended to help Trump.

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