HELENA, Mont. – The US Postal Service agreed on Wednesday to reverse the changes that slowed postal services across the country, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock during a pandemic that is expected to force many more people to vote in the mail.
The lawsuit filed against the director general of the post office, Louis Dejoy, and the U.S. Postal Service on Sept. 9, alleges that changes in June damaged access to postal services in Montana, leading to delays in the delivery of prescriptions, payments and job applications and hampering Montana residents̵
The postal service agreed to change all changes, which include reduced working hours, removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail processing facilities, limitation of delayed or additional trips for timely delivery of mail and prohibition or limiting overtime.
The agreement also requires the postal service to give priority to election mail.
The settlement was reached a day before the hearing in the US District Court in Great Falls. Applies to all countries.
“The Montanans have never given up on this battle, and as a result we are ensuring stability during and after the election by immediately restoring the postal services that people rely on, whether they receive vital medicines or ensure they can pay their bills on time.” said Bullock in a statement.
A U.S. Postal Service spokesman did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
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Many more voters are expected to vote by mail in November to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Montana counties hold elections by mail after a Bullock directive allowed them to do so to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Bullock is running for a seat in the US Senate.
The agreement comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked controversial changes to the postal service on September 17, calling the changes a “politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the postal service” before the November elections.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, issued a national preliminary injunction requested by 14 states, which filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The 14 states, led by the Democratic Party’s attorneys general, have expressed concern that delays could lead to voters not receiving ballots or registration forms on time.
After a national uproar last month, DeJoy, a major donor to President Donald Trump and the GOP, announced it was halting some of the changes, including removing mailboxes, but other changes remain in place.
Iris Samuels of the Associated Press / Report on America wrote this story. Samuels is a member of the Associated Press Corps / Report for the America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national non-profit program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret matters.