Attorney General Rosenblum Will Sue to Block Trump Administration’s Attempt to Undermine Vote-By-Mail

August 18, 2020
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Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced today that Oregon is joining a multistate coalition that will file a federal lawsuit challenging drastic operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that threaten critical mail delivery and could undermine the national election in November.

“Oregonians are outraged at the Trump Administration’s efforts to disrupt the U.S. Postal Service and undermine confidence in our vote-by-mail system,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.

The Postal Service cuts, including eliminating staff overtime, altering operations at state distribution centers and removing critical mail sorting equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail to individuals who rely on the Postal Service for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

The Postal Service also recently notified states that it will end its longstanding practice of processing ballots as first-class mail — regardless of what type of postage is used. States and counties that use marketing or bulk-rate postage for their ballots could experience delays that may prevent some ballots from being counted.

The lawsuit will assert that the Postal Service implemented these drastic changes to mail service nationwide unlawfully and seeks to stop the agency’s service reductions.

The changes at the Postal Service come as President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine the public’s confidence in vote-by-mail with baseless suggestions about the potential for widespread voter fraud. Oregon has conducted all elections by mail since 1998, and the practice enjoys broad, bipartisan support among voters in the state. Studies have concluded that there is no evidence of widespread fraud related to vote-by-mail compared to in-person voting.

Attorney General Rosenblum reassured Oregon voters that their voting system remains safe and reliable.

“It is very important that Oregonians understand it is safe to vote by mail here if you give yourself plenty of time,” Rosenblum said. “Sign up online to track your ballot’s progress, and use a drop box instead of the mail if you are cutting it close to Election Day!”

Postal Service changes

Recent changes at the Postal Service instituted by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have already resulted in mail delays, Congressional leaders argue.

Those changes include eliminating staff overtime, changing the way mail is sorted and requiring late-arriving mail to be left for delivery the following day.

The Postal Service has also announced plans to stop processing outgoing mail at some state mail distribution centers. This would disproportionately impact rural communities, often significantly increasing the distance mail must travel. For example, mail sent from one address to another in the same town would have to travel all the way to one of the remaining distribution centers and back again before being delivered.

President Trump stated last week that the service cuts at the Postal Service has a partisan motive.

“They need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said last week.

Impacts on older Oregonians and veterans

Postal Service cuts threaten timely mail deliveries for a range of important services, from prescriptions to utility bills. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Americans, especially older people and other high risk individuals, to rely increasingly on mail delivery services while they stay at home to protect their health. In general, older Oregonians rely heavily on the mail for essentials like medications, Social Security benefits and even groceries.

The policy changes have already impacted our country’s veterans, who are reporting much longer wait times to receive mail-order prescription drugs. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), which provides broad health care services to veterans nationwide, fills about 80 percent of veteran prescriptions by mail. The VA processes about 120 million mail-order prescriptions per year — 470,000 a day. The Postal Service makes daily prescription deliveries to 330,000 veterans across the country.

Legal claims

The lawsuit asserts that the Postal Service has acted outside of its authority to implement changes to the postal system, and did not follow the proper procedures under federal law.

Federal law requires that 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 federal government’s failure to perform this mandatory duty deprived the states of their statutory right to notice and comment on USPS’ nationwide service changes.

The states’ lawsuit seeks to block the unlawful service reductions and operational changes at the Postal Service.

The lawsuit will be filed in U.S. District Court in Washington state. In addition to Washington and Oregon, the suit will be joined by Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced a complementary multistate lawsuit to be filed in Pennsylvania.

The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) is led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, and serves as the state’s law firm.
Oregon Department of Justice