A Manhattan federal judge ruled Sept. 22 that the Postal Service would have to reverse its slowdown ahead of the election, following a lawsuit from 17 plaintiffs who alleged that current policies cannot adequately accommodate an expected surge in mail-in voting.
“This is an unprecedented election year, and we’re going to have a record number of voting by mail,” said Ali Najmi, a Queens-based lawyer and community advocate who filed the lawsuit against President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy along with four representatives from Cohen & Green PLLC.
DeJoy announced in June that the agency would remove a substantial amount of mail sorting machines, which would reduce the rate at which mail would be delivered, in response to a nationwide decrease in mail volume. He also announced that the agency would ban daily trips beyond employees’ initial runs in an effort to save $200 million.
The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 17, claimed that the changes were unconstitutional and would jeopardize the chances of all mail-in ballots arriving in time. Over a month later, Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of Najmi and his 17 plaintiffs from six states.
“Now, more than ever, the Postal Service’s status as a symbol of national unity must be validated by the demonstrated degree of its commitment to utmost effectiveness of Election Mail service,” Marrero wrote in his nearly-90 page ruling. “And while the Court has no doubts that the Postal Service’s workforce comprises hardworking and dedicated public servants, multiple managerial failures have undermined the postal employees’ ability to fulfill their vital mission.”
Marrero ordered DeJoy to treat all election mail as first-class and priority mail to ensure its speedy delivery. He also ordered DeJoy to update the court on a weekly basis on the post office’s progress in improving its mail delivery as well as come up with a plan to restore on-time delivery to its highest level within the year.
“Anytime you sue the federal government it’s not easy,” said Najmi, adding that the lawsuit was successful due to testimony gained from USPS workers and managers who established what the agency slowdown looked like and how it would affect the efficiency in delivering mailed-in ballots. “It troubled the people in this nation.”
Najmi pointed to Marrero’s ruling that DeJoy must approve all overtime requests from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, which is regarded as the peak of election mail submittance and delivery.
“It was clear that overtime is essential for processing the ballots swiftly,” he said. “There was confusion across the nation about DeJoy’s statements. They were inconsistent, didn’t meet the demands we need.”
Najmi assures all those who had been apprehensive about voting via mail that their ballots will now be surely counted, but he encourages everyone to do it as soon as possible to ensure they are postmarked in time. He himself has already postmarked his ballot, and said he’s assisted his mother in securing hers as well.