The US Postal Service will continue to take “extraordinary measures” to ensure the on-time delivery of mailed ballots under a recent settlement agreement between the agency and outside groups following a protracted litigation.
The deal ends a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and Public Citizen ahead of the 2020 election, with advocacy groups saying the USPS was not taking sufficient steps to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. The settlement, in addition to rulings stemming from a dozen other lawsuits the Postal Service faced ahead of the election, led to an injunction on a series of actions the leadership had instituted to cut costs and reform. the operations.
In the home stretch before the 2020 election, the USPS committed a host of additional resources specifically to move ballots, including increased overtime, extra travel, speeding up election mail for delivery and new processes every day to report specially marked mail. The postal agency began carrying out scans to check political advertising mail, voter registration documents and postal vote requests in January 2020, and sent postal inspectors to all processing plants that process the electoral mail from the end of October.
As part of its settlement agreement, the USPS will make a “good faith effort” to establish electoral plans through at least 2028 similar to those in place last year, although the parties have agreed that changes legislative or regulatory may require certain adjustments. Management “will prioritize monitoring and timely delivery of election mail,” although the agency and complainants agreed it was premature to go into details. The USPS will post all of its national guidance documents for election mail on its website for 2022, 2024, 2026, and 2028.
The Postal Directorate will meet with the NAACP at least twice per election year and provide performance data in the run-up to elections. Plaintiffs can file a lawsuit in the same U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that heard the case if the USPS violates any of the terms of the settlement.
“The right to vote and the ability to access the ballot are the cornerstone of our democracy,” Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta said of the deal. “The Department [of Justice] is pleased that we were able to facilitate a resolution that reflects the commitment of all parties to properly process and prioritize election mail.
A spate of lawsuits against the USPS had led the court to require the postal management to tell any employee previously informed of pressure from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to reduce late and additional travel that the directive was no longer applicable and that USPS personnel should make these trips “to the maximum extent necessary to increase on-time mail deliveries, especially for election mail. The lawsuits have also led to a pause in long-standing efforts to decommission mail processing equipment and eliminate blue collection boxes.
The regulation formally dissolves the injunction. The NAACP called the deal “historic” and “an unprecedented victory for civil rights.”
âNo one, including the USPS, should ever interfere with our constitutional rights,â said Derrick Johnson, chairman of the group. âWith the ability of the NAACP to now monitor the performance of the USPS in national elections, we will ensure that the right to vote is protected for all citizens, including those who are often suppressed. “
The regulations made it clear that the USPS did not admit any wrongdoing, a position it reiterated after the deal was struck. Ultimately, the Postal Service was largely successful in ensuring the on-time delivery of election mail last year.
“In line with the postal service’s unwavering commitment to fulfilling our vital role in the country’s electoral process, we have agreed to continue to prioritize the monitoring and timely delivery of electoral mail for future elections,” said Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the USPS. âThe Postal Service continues to believe that none of the election mail prosecutions were substantiated or supported by applicable law. The Postal Service performed admirably in the 2020 general election and would have done so regardless of the litigation. “
Post management has repeatedly argued in court that the post office minister’s initiatives only resulted in mail delays because frontline workers misinterpreted their guidelines, although the employees themselves pushed back. this story. While DeJoy said the USPS would be able to quickly recover from the setback and resume its on-time delivery targets, it wasn’t until 2021 that the Postal Service recovered from its slump in performance. The postal service continued to fight injunctions after the election ended.