YAKIMA, Wash.—GOP President Donald Trump and his handpicked postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, deliberately disenfranchised voters nationwide through DeJoy’s mail slowdowns, machine removal, and other measures, a federal judge in Washington state ruled. In a blistering opinion, Judge Stanley Bastian ordered a national reversal of DeJoy’s moves.
Bastian’s ban of the Trump-DeJoy “leave mail behind policy”—a phrase taken from the Postal Service’s own inspector general’s report—and his comments are a victory for voters and for 14 state attorneys general, led by Washington’s Bob Ferguson. They challenged the Trump-DeJoy scheme in federal court in Yakima, Wash.
Washington voters have cast all their ballots by mail for years and DeJoy’s changes would deprive many of their right to vote, Bastian’s Sept. 17 decision said. The same impact would occur nationwide, he added, especially in Democratic areas.
As the judge noted, 72% of the 671 high-speed postal sorting machines DeJoy has yanked out of postal facilities nationwide—machines equipped to handle the large envelopes containing ballots and election materials— were located in counties where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton received the most votes in 2016.
DeJoy, however, has had his minions not only yank out the machines but dismantle or destroy many of them, cannibalizing them for parts.
“It may not be readily apparent, but at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement,” Bastian wrote, granting the AGs’ demand for an immediate injunction halting DeJoy’s schemes and ordering their rollback.
“It is easy to conclude the recent Postal Service changes is an intentional effort on the part the current administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections,” Bastian said, before citing the impact on pro-Democratic counties.
Trump’s own “highly partisan words and tweets” also showed his and DeJoy’s intent, the judge said. Added to them were “lawsuits by the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign to stop the states’ efforts to bypass the Postal Service by utilizing ballot drop boxes, as well as the timing of the changes.”
DeJoy’s other actions included banning overtime, ordering mail trucks to leave postal sorting stations even without being loaded, leaving undelivered mail on loading dock floors, and refusing to give election mail top priority, the judge said.
The judge did not mention, however, another DeJoy scheme: Removing the USPS’s ubiquitous blue mailboxes from central cities and other pro-Democratic areas and from neighborhoods housing voters of color, on the excuse that those mailboxes had low volumes.
The results were delays that disenfranchised voters around the U.S. even in the presidential primaries, Bastian added. The general election would be much worse if DeJoy’s deliberate changes were left in place, the judge said.
“Defendants take the remarkable position that nothing has changed in the Postal Service’s approach to election mail from past years. This is simply not true… Statistics show there has been a drastic decrease in delivery rates. Most telling is the picture of the banner that was hung at an Oregon Postal Service facility in early September.”
The big banner bans workers from delaying postal trucks’ departure so they can be loaded with mail. “NO EXCEPTIONS,” “DO NOT HOLD A TRUCK. NO MORE HOLDING TRUCKS,” “Make sure every single employee in our building understands All Trips Depart on Time.”
The banner reflects the “Leave Mail Behind” policy that was instituted in July 2020 and “is a significant change from past practice,” Bastian said.
The state AGs “made an extensive showing of irreparable harm that is caused and will be caused by the ‘Leave Mail Behind’ policy and the Postal Service’s refusal to ensure election mail will be treated as First Class mail to ensure timely delivery.”
That, and the fact the AGs produced enough evidence to show they could probably win the case on its merits, led Bastian to grant his injunction against the Trump-DeJoy scheme.
Postal unions, which have also raised hell about DeJoy’s delays, had no immediate comment on the judge’s order. Ferguson, speaking for himself and his fellow attorneys general, including AGs in Minnesota, Illinois, D.C., and Pennsylvania, did.
Bastian ordered the USPS to “stop the leave mail behind policy,” treat all election mail as First Class, “replace, reassemble and reconnect” the 671 sorting machines and obey DeJoy’s recent commitment to Congress—a promise made under congressional Democratic pressure—to suspend his changes and rollbacks. Congressional Republicans, in that same hearing with DeJoy, said the session was just a political show.
“Today’s victory protects a critical institution for our country,” Ferguson said. “Americans can now confidently vote by mail and have their voices heard.” But Ferguson also warned that despite DeJoy’s promise, the postal delays continue.
“This is a huge victory for our election system and Americans’ access to the ballot box,” added Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, an early dropout from the Democratic presidential primaries. “I thank the attorney general and his team for all their work on behalf of Washingtonians.”
Washington started its vote-by-mail option in 2005, and it went statewide six years later, with virtually no problems and no fraud since. Experts calculate that if politicians allow it, some 76% of voters could cast ballots by mail this fall, and millions are likely to do given the pervasive coronavirus pandemic. It makes in-person voting, including standing in lines and crowding in polling places, hazardous to voters’ health.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.