Bob Ferguson strikes again! Washington’s Attorney General, for whom you will be voting in the November election and all elections to follow, has joined about a dozen other states in suing Donald Trump, Louis DeJoy, and America itself over Republicans’ escalating attacks on the post office. And while legal documents are usually a real pain in the neck to read, hoo boy, this one’s a juicy plum.
The suit starts with some pretty words about the history of the USPS (“a cherished and vital American institution since our country’s founding, when Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster General”). But then we get to the meat, with an item-by-item accounting of the ways that mail service has been undermined, and a strong case that by dismantling mail service, Trump and his gang are breaking the law.
The good bits start with an accounting of just how crooked the changes to the postal service appear to be. Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is a major Republican donor, the suit notes, and he owns equity and stock in post office contractors and competitors, “creating a major conflict of interest or the appearance of a major conflict of interest.” The filing goes on to list some of DeJoy’s actions that prevent mail from reaching its destination — cutting overtime, telling carriers to leave mail behind, decommissioning machines, removing mailboxes, reducing hours.
But one of the big accusations in the suit is that the USPS will force the states to pay triple the usual cost to process mail-in ballots if they want them delivered on time. This assertion is complicated: In the past, ballots have been treated like First Class mail, delivered in 2 to 5 days, while charging states a lower rate to deliver them. But according to Chuck Schumer, DeJoy is privately telling lawmakers that they’ll need to cough up three times as much money if they want that to continue, or else the ballots could be delayed.
In other words, “nice vote you got there, would be a shame if something happened to it.”
The suit also lists some specific examples of how the cutbacks have hit Washington. Sixty percent of the state’s mail processing facilities are no longer handling outgoing mail, a change made with no public notice. That means that in Olympia, for example, a letter sent to someone down the street will have to travel up to a sorting facility in Seattle before heading back down to the neighborhood where it originated. There’s also evidence that USPS dismantled multiple sorting machines here in Seattle, further slowing delivery.
What’s more, the Post Office sent a letter to the state in late July, warning us that there’s a risk “ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted.”
So that all sucks. Can the Postmaster General do that? No, the lawsuit argues, no he can’t. The USPS is required to get approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission before making changes like these. The USPS is acting “ultra vires” — outside of their legal ability — the states claim.
And then there are the Constitutional claims: The USPS is violating the U.S. Constitution in several ways, the lawsuit asserts, by infringing on Article I, section 4, clause 1, as well as the Fifth, Tenth, and Twelfth Amendments, all of which give states the authority to regulate their elections. Using a federal agency to interfere in state elections, the lawsuit says, is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit is seeking an injunction stopping any further operational changes, along with costs and “additional relief as the interests of justice may require.”
The case will be heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, which is fortunate: That particular court has zero Trump-appointed judges.