A US judge has blocked controversial Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency” of the service before the November election.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the US Postal Service.
The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called “leave mail behind” policy, by which trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time whether or not there is more mail to load.
They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as First Class mail.
“The states have demonstrated the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service,” Bastian said on Thursday.
The judge said he would issue a written order later in the day, but that it would be substantially the same as that sought by the states.
He also said the changes created “a substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised”.
In a declaration filed along with the original motion, information technology consultant Mynor Urizar-Hunter, who helped start a website tracking the USPS changes, noted that 78 percent of the machines slated for removal were in counties won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Despite overwhelming evidence of the safety and security of mail-in voting, President Trump has waged a months-long crusade to undermine mail-in voting,” the states wrote. “The changes at issue escalate this crusade by creating a substantial likelihood that the states will not be able to deliver, receive, and tally ballots cast in time to be counted.”
Following a national uproar, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump and the Republican Party, announced he was suspending some changes – including the removal of iconic blue mailboxes in many cities and the decommissioning of mail processing machines.
But others remained in place, and the states – including the battlegrounds of Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada – sued to have those undone as well.
The other states suing include Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia – all led by Democratic attorneys general.
Other lawsuits over the changes have been brought in New York and Pennsylvania.
Al Jazeera and news agencies