The US states of New York, New Jersey and Hawaii on Tuesday sued the Donald Trump administration over alleged steps to “undermine the November presidential election” by disrupting postal service.
New York’s Attorney General Letitia James announced that legal action was taken in a filing in Washington following the end of congressional hearings from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump backer.
Power grabbing Trump sued for undermining the postal service
Americans are expected to vote by mail in massive numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Trump has opposed more funding for the cash-strapped US Postal Service (USPS), acknowledging the money would be used to help process ballots.
“The USPS slowdown is nothing more than a voter suppression tactic,” James said in a statement, calling Trump’s actions a “power grab.”
“These authoritarian actions are not only jeopardizing our democracy and fundamental right to vote, but the immediate health and financial well-being of Americans across the nation,” she said.
The court filing is an escalation in a conflict over federal funding for the postal service, long considered a cornerstone of American democracy.
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The cities of New York and San Francisco joined the three states in suing the administration.
Several states have announced efforts to increase opportunities to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Trump has voiced opposition to the increase in mailed ballots, saying there’s an opportunity for fraud.
Facing widespread criticism, DeJoy, a fundraiser for the Republican Party, last week announced he would suspend postal reforms, blamed for delays in delivery, in the months leading up to the election, assuring Congress that allegations the changes were intended to sabotage the election were “outrageous.”
But he has presided over the removal of mail collection boxes and processing equipment, also overseeing a cut in overtime pay for mail carriers.
Over the weekend the US House of Representatives passed a bill to give the postal service a $25 billion infusion.
The bill is expected to die in the Republican-led Senate, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a “partisan stunt.”
USPS the weakest link?
The challenge to mail-in voting includes the US Postal Service.
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Weakened by tight budgets, falling income, and coronavirus in its ranks, the USPS is a weak link in getting ballots to voters and back to authorities for the count on time.
That raises the prospect of long legal fights, such as the one in New York now, over whether mailed-in ballots should be counted or disqualified.
It also could mean a long wait for White House and congressional election results on November 3.
There are also worries that Trump, who says he does not believe the USPS can do the job, could hamstring its election service.
Louis DeJoy, the leading Republican fund raiser Trump named earlier this year to run USPS, has raised the possibility of staff cutbacks and closing a number of post offices.
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Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said that DeJoy was doing Trump’s political bidding.
“We can’t let Trump turn the USPS into a political pawn run by a partisan cheerleader” — especially as we’re staring down an election in which millions could vote by mail,” she tweeted.
Trump propagating mistrust in the soon to be election process
Some analysts suspect Trump has another purpose in attacking vote by mail — to make his supporters distrust the election process itself.
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“He might be trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election and challenge mail-in votes if he can gain a political advantage,” said Rick Hasen, and election expert at University of California, Irvine.
He might be looking to make an excuse for an eventual loss,” Hasen added.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk