August 18, 2020

AG to sue Trump administration over postal service changes

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday he will file a suit against the Donald Trump administration for changes to the U.S. Postal Service, one of 20 attorneys general, all Democrats, who have announced they would sue the federal government.

Also on Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would suspend the controversial policies that have slowed down the delivery of mail until after the election.

Matt Baca, the chief counsel with the Attorney General’s office, told NM Political Report that they would proceed with the lawsuit “to ensure absolute compliance with the law.”

The changes, which Balderas mentioned in his statement announcing the suit, include cutting overtime for postal staff and removing letter sorting equipment, which caused critics to say the actions were an attempt to slow the mail as the country moved towards an election with record numbers of mail-in ballots.

“The postal service is a vital lifeline for rural New Mexico, and this action threatens to disproportionately harm our Indigenous communities, from their daily living to their ability to participate in our democracy,” Balderas said in a statement. “I am asking the courts to step in and supervise this process to ensure that the federal government is working with states, including our Secretary of State, to ensure these services are delivered in the way our Constitution mandates.”

The suit said that the Postal Service made the changes in excess of its authority and did not follow the proper procedures, which would require changes to go through the Postal Regulatory Commission.

President Donald Trump admitted last week that he was depriving the U.S. Postal Service of funds to make it harder for the service to deal with the flood of ballots.

While DeJoy announced he would suspend the changes, it isn’t immediately clear how far it would go. It isn’t clear if this would include restoring letter sorting machines that have already been removed from postal offices in states across the nation.

DeJoy is also set to testify in front of a Senate panel on Friday and in front of the House next week. House leadership called members back to vote on a $25 billion boost to funding for the embattled service this weekend.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation also criticized the move by Postmaster General DeJoy.

“Delays in delivery and scaled back operations put our seniors, veterans, families, and small business owners at risk of not receiving medications, bills, or payments in a timely fashion,” U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat, said in a letter sent before DeJoy’s announcement. “For the sake of our economy, the hardworking postal workers who risk their health every day, and the millions of Americans who rely on USPS, we must protect our Postal Service.”

Already the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would stop the removal of drop boxes and even restore some that were removed.

New Mexico joins a suit that also includes those from Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Other attorneys general have announced other suits.

Update: Here is a copy of the lawsuit.