Post of­fice de­fends on claims that cuts threaten elec­tion

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - NEWS - By Maryclaire Dale

PHILADEL­PHIA » Lawyers for the U.S. Postal Ser­vice ar­gued in court Thurs­day against ac­cu­sa­tions that ser­vice cuts are slow­ing down the mail and threat­en­ing the in­tegrity of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The latest hear­ing on the is­sue took place in fed­eral court in Philadel­phia, where the at­tor­neys gen­eral from six states and the District of Columbia have sued.

They ar­gue that on-time de­liv­ery dropped sharply in

July and has not fully re­bounded as the na­tion bat­tles a pan­demic and pre­pares for an elec­tion that could hinge on mail-in bal­lots.

“There was a sharp dip in early July that hasn’t re­bounded to where it was, even today,” Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Aimee D. Thom­son of Penn­syl­va­nia ar­gued.

Judges in Wash­ing­ton state and New York have is­sued emer­gency or­ders this month in sim­i­lar cases. The oth­ers states in­volved in Thurs­day’s hear­ing are Cal­i­for­nia, Delaware,

Maine, Massachuse­tts and North Carolina.

Thom­son said the ev­i­dence shows a slow­down or­der came from head­quar­ters this sum­mer af­ter Post­mas­ter Gen­eral Louis DeJoy took over the ser­vice.

Lawyers for the Postal Ser­vice say head­quar­ters never or­dered a slow­down or over­time ban. How­ever, upon ques­tion­ing from the judge, they con­ceded that lo­cal postal man­agers may have mis­con­strued the guid­ance from Wash­ing­ton and thought the stated goal of re­duc­ing over­time was ac­tu­ally a man­date.

The state of­fi­cials said that on-time de­liv­ery of first-class mail fell 10% from July to Au­gust, ag­gra­vat­ing and even en­dan­ger­ing cus­tomers who rely on mail de­liv­ery for food, med­i­ca­tions and other es­sen­tials.

They said the cuts also threaten the in­tegrity of the up­com­ing elec­tion, given the ex­pected wide­spread use of mail-in bal­lots across the coun­try.

U.S. District Judge Ger­ald A. McHugh Jr. did not im­me­di­ately rule.

On Mon­day, U.S. District Judge Vic­tor Mar­rero in Man­hat­tan largely sided with sev­eral peo­ple across the coun­try, in­clud­ing can­di­dates for public of­fice, who claimed that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the Postal Ser­vice and the new post­mas­ter gen­eral were en­dan­ger­ing elec­tion mail.

And last week, U.S. District Judge Stan­ley Bas­tian in Yakima, Wash­ing­ton, or­dered an end to postal prac­tices na­tion­wide that slowed mail de­liv­ery since July, say­ing 14 states had made a “strong show­ing” that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was us­ing the Postal Ser­vice “as a tool in par­ti­san pol­i­tics.”

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