Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has somehow managed to remain in his job, one of the last high-profile Trump holdovers, even though he has been under an ethical and legal cloud for the entirety of his tenure. We heard from one of those clouds Thursday, when a federal judge ruled that DeJoy’s changes to the U.S. Postal Service prior to the 2020 election harmed the service, but didn’t break election laws. Nonetheless, the judge blocked DeJoy from doing it again.
Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan found that the changes DeJoy made to the U.S. Postal Service in the months leading up to the 2020 elections to remove sorting machines and prevent carriers from making extra deliveries hurt mail delivery. He also found that DeJoy should not have made those operational changes unilaterally, without permission from the Postal Regulatory Commission. The judge put orders in place to prevent DeJoy from repeating those actions.
The suit was brought by Democratic-led state and local governments who argued that the slowdowns DeJoy created at the Postal Service with equipment cuts and eliminating overtime hindered those governments’ efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic because it impacted mail-in voting, forcing people to vote in person to ensure that their ballot was received and counted.
Martha Johnson, Sr. Public Relations Representative, emails this statement: “Any suggestion that the Postal Service or anyone in Postal Service leadership, up to and including the Postmaster General, at any point in time was not fully committed to supporting our democratic process is inconsistent with the facts and our performance in 2020 and 2021. [...]”
“Between now and the November election, we remain highly focused on fulfilling our critical role as part of the country’s electoral system where election officials or voters choose to utilize us as a part of their process. We continue to believe that the lawsuit was not justified under the facts or supported by the applicable law. We are studying the opinion to determine our appropriate next steps. Just as we always have been, the U.S. Postal Service remains fully committed to the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail.”
The judge determined otherwise.
During the early summer and fall of 2020, DeJoy shut down mail sorting machines, removed postal boxes, and barred carriers from making extra trips to ensure that all the mail was delivered on time. DeJoy did not clear those changes with the PRC as required. “The evidence demonstrates that [the states and localities] suffered harm by impeding their ability to combat the spread of COVID-19, impeding their ability to provide safe alternatives to in-person voting,” Sullivan found. DeJoy’s changes also created extra costs and administrative burdens for the state and local governments in having to create those alternatives, the judge found.
“Although the simultaneous implementation of multiple policy changes in June and July 2020 contributed to the decline in mail service and the overall confusion by postal workers, the record evidence demonstrates that changes to and impacts on the USPS transportation schedule regarding late and extra trips were the primary factor in affecting service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis,” Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan did not find a violation of federal elections laws in DeJoy’s slowdowns, however. “Though the implementation of the Postal Policy Changes contributed to the delay in mail deliveries nationwide, which in turn risked a delay in the delivery of mail-in ballots during an election season, USPS’s actions do not amount to voting regulations that override the States’ existing regulations,” Sullivan wrote. He did block DeJoy from unilaterally making big alterations to the service again, however.
As if that would stop DeJoy. The surest way to prevent him from interfering in any more elections is to fire him. The Postal Regulatory Commission doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in restraining him, nor does the service’s Board of Governors. The PRC dismissed a complaint brought by 20 state attorneys general last fall over DeJoy’s 10-year plan to make mail delivery slower and more expensive. The Board of Governors is going along with it, too, despite the fact that it’s directly harming all of the people who rely on timely, efficient mail delivery to pay their bills, get those checks, and generally conduct business.
There’s another easy opportunity for President Joe Biden to finally end DeJoy’s destruction of the Postal Service right now. The terms of the last two big DeJoy champions on the Board of Governors—Democrat Donal Lee Moak and Republican William Zollars—expire in December. The way the Board works allows them to stay on for another year without being renominated, but Biden can’t let that happen.
The Save the Post Office Coalition, along with 83 separate public interest groups, are on top of the situation. They wrote to Biden in August, calling him to nominate new candidates “who will hold the current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy accountable for his destructive leadership and advocate strongly for the expansion of USPS services.”
“Now is the time for a Board that will invest in building the Postal Service of the future,” their letter concludes, which means creating a Board that “will push the USPS to look at its long-term financial health and build a union-built electric postal fleet that will be better for the planet, for mail carriers, and for frontline communities.”
Last year, Biden ousted DeJoy’s biggest cheerleader, Democrat Ron Bloom, when his term ended. That made the grassroots giddy with anticipation that, finally, DeJoy’s days were numbered. We celebrated too soon.
Porter McConnell, co-founder of the Save the Post Office coalition, told The Prospect’s David Dayen, “I know the grassroots is still very pissed about DeJoy and doesn’t understand why he’s there.” She added, “[The administration] could decide to take the political win. Or decline to do so for reasons unknown.”
This time, however, Biden has got to get it done. It’s the third most popular thing he could do with the grassroots after student loan forgiveness and pardons for federal weed convictions. He did those. Now it’s time he saves the post office and nominates two new members who will get the job done. It’s a slam dunk, and now would be a great time to make the announcement, with DeJoy’s holiday price hikes pissing everybody off.
The lame-duck session of the Senate would be a great time for the confirmation of the two Board nominees who will finally vote to get rid of DeJoy. It also wouldn’t hurt to announce those nominees now, before people vote on senators, so they can factor saving the post office into their votes. It’s not the biggest campaign issue, but it sure as hell would be motivating for the grassroots.