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Attorney General William Tong

08/18/2020

Attorney General Tong, State Attorneys General to Sue Trump Administration Over Attempts to Undermine Postal Service

(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong announced that Connecticut is joining a multistate coalition that will file a federal lawsuit today challenging drastic operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that threaten critical mail delivery ahead of the November election.

Attorney General Tong will hold a media availability at 4:30 p.m. today outside the Office of the Attorney General at 165 Capitol Avenue in Hartford to discuss the details of this case.

“We will not allow Donald Trump to steal the election by sabotaging the United States Postal Service. He cannot unilaterally impose onerous and arbitrary new conditions on the postal service to suit his political needs. Complaints are pouring in from across Connecticut. Medicine is not being delivered on time to sick seniors. Child support payments are arriving late to financially insecure mothers. Small businesses are getting paid late and cannot deliver their products on time. And some Connecticut residents were already denied their right to vote when their August absentee ballots arrived late,” said Attorney General Tong.

“Mail is backing up in post offices all over the state because of corrosive and counterproductive new policies imposed in the runup to the national election by the new Trump loyalist Postmaster General. Mail sorting machinery is being removed from Connecticut processing facilities, forcing postal workers to sort mail by hand. Packages are prioritized over letters – including ballots – while postal workers are denied the overtime they need to sort and deliver mail. The President greatly misjudged the anger his unlawful policies would unleash across this country,” Attorney General Tong continued. “We will ask the court to block these destructive new policies and fully and immediately restore the postal service, so that Americans can cast their ballots with confidence this November and know their votes will be counted.”

The new policies unilaterally imposed by Louis DeJoy, the Trump megadonor who became Postmaster General on May 6, include 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. Mail processing centers that serve Connecticut will lose 18 high-speed mail processing machines – some of which can sort upwards of 30,000 letters per hour – in the months immediately before the November election. Removal of these machines will require these processes to be done by hand, at the same time that overtime is being drastically curtailed.

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 Connecticut Office of the Attorney General has heard from individuals across the state already reporting delayed absentee ballots, prescriptions, rent checks, child support, disability and worker’s compensation payments. The Office of the Attorney General has also received direct reports from postal service employees describing removal of processing machines, limitations on overtime, and trucks being sent out without waiting for mail to be sorted and loaded.

Backlogs are already being reported in Connecticut. Just months ago, in-state First Class Mail could be expected to be delivered within two days. Now, delays of up to a week are routine, even longer at times. These unlawful changes resulted in delayed mail-in ballots for Connecticut’s August primary. The Office of the Attorney General has received multiple reports of ballots postmarked a week to ten days prior to the August 11 primary, yet still not arriving until after the election.

The states’ lawsuit, led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, will assert that the Postal Service implemented these drastic changes to mail service nationwide unlawfully, and seeks to immediately halt the agency’s actions.

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. Trump signaled last week that he will not approve emergency funding for the Postal Service as part of the overall coronavirus relief package. At the same time, he has continued to call into question the integrity of vote-by-mail elections, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting will lead to a fraudulent election.

“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.

The states assert that the Postal Service 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 Service’s 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.

The lawsuits seek to block the unlawful cuts and operational changes at the Postal Service.
Washington and Connecticut are joined by Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Twitter: @AGWilliamTong
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Media Contact:

Elizabeth Benton
elizabeth.benton@ct.gov

Consumer Inquiries:

860-808-5318
attorney.general@ct.gov