Maine Attorney General announces lawsuit to stop USPS changes, secure vote-by-mail

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 9:45am

    AUGUSTA — Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey announced Tuesday he is joining a coalition of state Attorneys General led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in filing a federal lawsuit challenging nationwide operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service, according to a news release.

    The lawsuit seeks to halt unilateral changes at the Postal Service and ensure safe, secure vote-by-mail across the country.

    Service and policy changes at the Post Office, including limiting staff overtime and so-called "late or extra shifts" have impacted the prompt delivery of mail to Americans who rely on the Postal Service for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

    "The Trump Administration's attempts to incapacitate the Post Office in the lead up to the 2020 general election constitute a clear effort to interfere with Mainers ability to vote safely by mail. Moreover, many Mainers, particularly in rural areas, rely on a fully-functioning postal service for essential needs from prescription drugs to social security checks," said Frey. "These actions are unlawful, which is why I am joining a coalition of my colleagues across the country to protect the operation of the postal service and to hold the Trump Administration accountable."

    Nearly 100,000 Mainers voted by mail in Maine’s 2020 primary election.

    The need for an effective vote by mail option is especially critical in Maine because of the relatively high levels of individuals at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, particularly disabled and elderly voters, the release stated. Nearly half of Maine’s adults are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 due to age and pre-existing medical conditions.

    "Maine has a proud tradition of voter participation and many Mainers choose to vote safely by mail," said Frey. "I encourage Mainers to cast their ballots in the way they see fit, and I will fight to ensure that they are able to do so without interference."

    Last month the Postal Service notified many states, including Maine, that it could not guarantee delivery of ballots in accordance with state laws and deadlines.

    The multi-state lawsuit will assert the Postal Service unlawfully implemented widespread changes to mail service nationwide. The suit seeks to immediately reverse the agencys actions, and guarantee safeguards and standards for election mail.

    Postal Service Changes

    Recent changes at the Postal Service instituted by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have already resulted in mail delays. Those changes include requiring late-arriving mail to be left for delivery the following day, and limiting the length of shifts, meaning not all mail that goes out for delivery is delivered.

    The changes at the Postal Service come as President Donald Trump has continued to baselessly claim that widespread vote-by-mail will lead to a fraudulent election.

    Legal claims

    The attorneys general will assert that the Postal Service has acted outside of its authority to implement changes to the postal system, and did not follow the proper procedures required by federal law.

    Changes at the U.S. Postal Service that cause a nationwide impact in mail service must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission then evaluates the proposal through a procedure that includes public notice and comment. The Postal Services sudden and unilateral changes to the nature of postal services deprived the States of their procedural right to comment on such changes prior to implementation as established by federal law.

    Changes also impede States efforts to conduct free and fair elections, a right and authority granted to them by the Constitution. Actions to undermine the efficacy of the Postal Service also undermine States ability to conduct elections in a manner their respective legislature has chosen.

    The lawsuits seek to block the unlawful cuts and operational changes at the Postal Service.

    Pennsylvania and Washington are filing separate, complementary, legal actions in the coming days. Joining Maine in the Pennsylvania-led legal action are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, with more potentially to sign on later.