US judge orders stop to Postal Service cuts

FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, file photo, a person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mailbox in Omaha, Neb. Data obtained by The Associated Press shows Postal Service districts across the nation are missing the agency’s own standards for on-time delivery as millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge in Philadelphia joined others Monday in ordering the U.S. Postal Service to halt recent cuts that critics say are causing mail delays and threatening the integrity of the presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh Jr. said six states and the District of Columbia presented “compelling evidence” from the Postal Service itself that shows “a pronounced increase in mail delays across the country” since July.

“In a pandemic, states are even more reliant on the mail, especially when it comes to administering elections,” McHugh wrote in granting a preliminary injunction.

Lawyers for the Postal Service say new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy never ordered a slowdown or overtime ban. However, they conceded in court last week that local postal managers may have interpreted the guidance from Washington that way.

Because of that lack of clarity, McHugh said, a national injunction that echoes the others that were issued was necessary.

State officials had told McHugh that on-time delivery of first-class mail fell 10% from July to August, aggravating and even endangering customers who rely on mail delivery for food, medications and other essentials.

The case before McHugh was filed by attorneys general in Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Federal judges in Washington state and New York issued similar orders this month.