TRENTON — A federal judge has sided with New Jersey in a lawsuit to block changes at the U.S. Postal Service, as the November election will mainly be carried out in NJ by mail-in ballots.

The Postal Service has become the newest battleground in this year's presidential contest, with President Donald Trump assailing the legitimacy of mail-in voting, which more states will be relying on because of the pandemic.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal tweeted the development Sunday afternoon, with a photo of two pages of the court order.

Grewal wrote "BREAKING: A federal judge just issued an order in our case halting the Trump Administration's efforts to interfere with mail delivery in advance of the election. We WILL have a free and fair election."

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., with New York City, the state of New York, Hawaii and San Francisco, the state had said that the Postal Service's reductions in overtime, mail-sorting machines and public mailboxes are illegal because they were implemented without a public hearing.

Grewal said the changes could also disrupt the November election in addition to harming people who rely on the mail to deliver medication.

“Voting by mail is safe, secure, and reliable and we intend to keep it that way for New Jerseyans," Grewal said in a written statement August 25. "Americans will vote by mail in record numbers this November and the Postal Service’s dramatic changes threaten to disenfranchise voters by disrupting mail service. We will continue working with other state Attorneys General to protect the election and voter rights.”

It's the latest such order by a federal judge, among a number of similar lawsuits seeking to restore recent cuts to postal service mail sorting and processing machines or overtime hours by workers.

On September 21, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan largely sided with several people across the country, including candidates for public office, who claimed in a lawsuit that President Donald Trump, the Postal Service and the new postmaster general were endangering election mail.

“The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election, raising doubts as to whether their votes will ultimately be counted,” Marrero said.

Days earlier on September 17, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, ordered an end to postal practices nationwide that slowed mail delivery since July, saying 14 states had made a “strong showing” that the Trump administration was using the Postal Service “as a tool in partisan politics.”

Like Bastian, Marrero said the agency's workers must treat election mail as First Class Mail.

Marrero's 87-page ruling was more specific than Bastian's 13-page order as he cited public statements, including from Trump, to explain why he can't trust government assurances that new policies hampering mail delivery had been fully suspended.

He said Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Postal Service “have not provided trusted assurance and comfort that citizens will be able to cast ballots with full confidence that their votes would be timely collected and counted.”

In August, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order requiring that all active voters receive a mail-in ballot for the November election. Limited polling places will be open on Election Day to accommodate people who want to personally hand-in their ballot or to provide paper, provisional ballots to voters who either did not receive a mail-in ballot or prefer not to use one.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, in testimony to Congress in late August, denied that changes at the independent public agency were intended to affect the November elections. DeJoy, a Trump campaign donor, told lawmakers that he has spoken to members of Trump's campaign to say that the president's attacks are “not helpful.”

 

(Includes material Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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