Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined 12 other state attorneys general Tuesday in a lawsuit to block U.S. Postal Service policies that they say could keep mail-in ballots from being counted in time for the upcoming presidential election.
The suit was filed around the time that U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that he was suspending those policies until after the election to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
Ellison’s move joins Minnesota to a suit led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and backed by other Democratic attorneys general in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro led a second suit Tuesday with a coalition that included California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
The two suits raise concerns about voter disenfranchisement, growing in part from President Donald Trump’s attacks on mail-in ballots, which he argues without evidence could be subject to fraud. Mail-in balloting has been viewed as a safer alternative to in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of fraud have been rare in states that use mail-in balloting.
Ellison and many postal union officials have said that recent postal service changes implemented to cut costs have resulted in a significant slowdown of mail delivery, potentially threatening the timely arrival of mail-in ballots. Ellison cited reports that mail-sorting capability in the Twin Cities has been reduced to 100,000 pieces of mail per hour, down from 200,000 per hour.
He charged that three mail sorting machines in Minnesota had been decommissioned and six more were expected to be taken down in the near future.
“For the administration to attack the Postal Service at this critical moment in our history is deeply disturbing,” Ellison said in a statement. “It requires that we step forward immediately to protect this public service, our right to vote, and people’s lives.”
The suits came as U.S. Sen. Tina Smith toured a mail facility in Eagan, a major processing center in Minnesota.
“They have clearly reduced capacity by removing some of these sorting machines,” she said. She said she was told by postal officials that they were intending to remove six or seven sorting machines. “That has resulted in a loss of capacity of somewhere between one and a half and two million pieces of mail per day,” she said.
In an interview last week, Todd Elkerton, president of the St. Paul local of the American Postal Workers Union, said the Post Office had removed eight of the 30 mail processing machines at the Eagan facility.
Smith, who is running for re-election in November, acknowledged DeJoy’s move to hold off on the new cost-cutting measures. “I think the postmaster general has been under intense pressure,” she said.
But Smith said she remains concerned that the postmaster did not give any indication that the postal sorting machines already removed in Eagan will be restored.
With mixed messages from the post office “on top of what the president is saying about how he wants to cut the money from the post office and his antipathy to mail voting, it is understandable we are skeptical,” Smith said.
She said postal workers inside the processing plant said they would do everything they could with the resources they have to deliver the mail on time and deliver ballots.