New York is suing the United States Postal Service and President Donald Trump to reverse policy changes that could disrupt voting by mail in November. State Attorney General Letitia James announced the suit Tuesday, joined by members of the state’s congressional delegation.
The suit came one day after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was grilled by members of the House Oversight Committee over recent policy changes at the federal agency that have delayed USPS mail in New York and across the country.
Those changes include removing mailboxes and mail sorting machines; curtailing overtime for USPS staff; prohibiting late and extra trips that ensure mail is delivered on time; and sowing confusion over what election mail standards the USPS will follow in advance of the general election in which voters will elect the next president.
“As Americans experience the worst public health crisis in a century, a crisis that has only increased our dependence on this mail system, the federal government is drastically cutting services from that very lifeline,” James said, noting that people rely on the USPS for the delivery of essential items such as medication and mail-in ballots.
In the complaint, James argued the policy changes violated federal statutes and the Constitution because the USPS failed to seek a required advisory opinion before overhauling operations that changed delivery standards, and that those changes violated the election clause of the Constitution by disrupting the ability of states to effectively carry out their elections.
Hawaii and New Jersey, as well as New York City and San Francisco, are also plaintiffs in this case. They point to repeated comments from President Trump that cast doubt on the reliability of voting by mail and suggest it leads to fraud without any evidence to support those claims.
“Despite his record of tens of thousands of lies, you have to credit the president with a little candor here,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the most senior member of the House delegation to join James for the announcement.
“He has told us repeatedly why they are trying to destroy the mail service. He has told us in so many words that he wants to disrupt the election and we cannot permit that,” Nadler added.
In New York, as voters prepare to cast their ballots for a second time during the pandemic, officials once again granted expanded access to absentee ballots to anyone who wants to avoid risks associated with Covid-19. During the June primary, a similar rule led to more than a ten-fold increase in absentee ballot use across the state.
At least three other cases have been filed against the post office seeking to block— and or reverse—policy changes ahead of the general election. The states of Washington and Pennsylvania already filed cases against the USPS.
There is also an ongoing lawsuit against Trump and the USPS filed in New York’s Southern District Court in Manhattan on behalf of State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Mondaire Jones, the Democratic nominee for the 17th congressional district, plus two candidates for state legislative office and more than a dozen voters. That case was filed by J. Remy Green and Ali Najmi, the two election lawyers who successfully argued against New York State in the case over postmark problems on absentee ballots during the June primary.
James said she considered joining other suits, but she wanted to wait to see if there was another way to resolve these issues. “We wanted to see whether or not congressional oversight would have addressed this issue. We wanted to see whether or not the public outcry would have addressed this issue.”
When it became clear after Monday’s hearing that the agency had no plans to reverse course, “we decided to use the power and the weight of New York State to litigate this claim. And we believe that our litigation stands on very strong grounds,” said James.