Civil Rights Lawyers Sue Postmaster General for Sabotaging Mail

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Aug 19, 2020

When President Donald Trump admitted publicly that he wanted to starve the United States Postal Service (USPS) of funding to minimize folks’ ability to vote by mail on August 13, Democrats and advocates called foul. Yesterday (August 18), the 55-year-old Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter LLP, filed a suit against the postmaster general and Republican party fundraiser Louis DeJoy and the USPS. DeJoy announced yesterday that he would back off and “handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.” 

But DeJoy’s concession came too late. The suit—filed on behalf of the National Urban League, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters U.S.alleges that DeJoy has “made sweeping changes to the Postal Service’s policies and procedures with the purpose and intent to sabotage mail-in voting in the upcoming 2020 national elections.” In addition to absentee voting being more important this year because of COVID-19—which disproportionately affects seniors and people of color—the civil rights complaint also says that DeJoy’s initial position violates the First Amendment because it specifically targets voters who are intending to vote by mail.

In an emailed statement to Colorlines, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote:  

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has wreaked havoc across the country with reckless policies intended to disrupt the timely delivery of mail just weeks in advance of a general election. “Without question, DeJoy is weaponizing the United States Postal Service (USPS) to disenfranchise Americans who choose to vote by mail amid an unprecedented pandemic gripping the nation. We are filing this lawsuit to stop actions that were adopted unlawfully and that were intended to cause delays intended to disrupt the November election. DeJoy’s statement vowing to suspend changes rings hollow in the absence of remedial action taken to address the damage that his actions have caused.” 

Ballots aside, people have already started to experience hiccups with incoming mail, ranging from delayed prescriptions to late bill payments.

Leading up to yesterday’s announcement, CNBC reported on August 17 that seven senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), sent a letter to the Postal Service Board of Governors asking for DeJoy to be removed from his post if he did not reverse positions. And on Sunday (August 16), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the House back early to vote on a bill that would stop the changes and to bring DeJoy in to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on August 24.

The saga continues…