DeJoy’s ‘Institutional Confusion’ Could Undermine Election, Judge Says In Order

An absentee ballot election worker consolidates a large stack of absentee ballot applications at the Mecklenburg Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2020. - The US election is offic... An absentee ballot election worker consolidates a large stack of absentee ballot applications at the Mecklenburg Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2020. - The US election is officially open: North Carolina on September 4, 2020 launched vote-by-mail operations for the November 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which is getting uglier by the day. Worries about the unabated spread of the coronavirus are expected to prompt a major increase in the number of ballots cast by mail, as Americans avoid polling stations. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
September 21, 2020 2:47 p.m.

The United States Postal Service has been so severely mismanaged that a federal judge said Monday that he needs to step in and make sure voters aren’t negatively impacted.

In a preliminary injunction order Monday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, of the Southern District of New York, called out “a stunning lack of uniformity and a high level of confusion at various points in the USPS hierarchy regarding the standards to be followed by USPS employees on the ground.”

Rather than focusing on guaranteeing Americans’ right to vote, Marrero wrote, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump “have not provided trusted assurance and comfort that citizens will be able to cast ballots with full confidence that their votes will be timely collected and counted.”

At issue are a series of polices from DeJoy, such as cutting back on overtime and late trips, that have slowed mail delivery and, according to the August lawsuit from a group of voters and political candidates, threatened the integrity of the 2020 elections.

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Marrero ordered both sides to come to a settlement consistent with his opinion by Friday, or else he would impose the order himself.

The court’s order that the Postal Service halt certain policies follows another order out of Washington last week, in which U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian asserted that “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

Though not as fiery as Bastian’s, Marrero’s order added additional constraints on the Postal Service.

For example, Marrero wrote that USPS would need to pre-approve all overtime requested for Oct. 26 through Nov. 6 — crunch time for collecting and delivering ballots to election officials. It also needs to clarify to employees that, contrary to one high-profile policy of DeJoy’s, “late and extra trips are not banned, do not require pre-approval, and will not result in disciplinary action.”

In fact, Marrero wrote, DeJoy needed to clarify to USPS employees that late and extra trips to deliver election mail are “encouraged.”

“If the Postal Service’s mail delivery levels remain at current levels or continue to decline, under operational policies apparently still in place, such curtailed performance would put the ability of voters to timely cast their ballots at risk,” he wrote.

DeJoy last month tried to calm the panic his policies created by saying he was pausing some of them. But as Judge Marrero wrote, “USPS’s purported rollback of ‘nearly all’ policies linked to mail delays is either incompletely implemented, inadequately communicated throughout the organization, or unreliable.”

“The institutional confusion in Postal Service communications, operations, and practices that Plaintiffs have identified can serve no legitimate purpose,” he said.

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