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Montana governor sues postmaster general over mail delays

September 9, 2020 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday, arguing changes made to the postal service could affect the ability to vote by mail in November.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, says that the Postal Service did not follow its own guidelines in changing policies that have directly harmed Montana residents by impeding the flow of mail.

“Since becoming Postmaster General in June, Louis DeJoy has taken steps to undermine an institution that since this nation’s founding has defied the odds and delivered the mail. In Montana, we’re not giving up the fight to ensure timely mail delivery,” said Bullock, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate.

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The lawsuit comes after the attorneys general of Washington and Pennsylvania, both Democrats, filed similar lawsuits last month. More than a dozen other states, all with Democratic attorneys general, signed onto those lawsuits.

Bullock is the first governor to attach his name to a lawsuit against the postmaster general related to recent changes in service.

Tuesday’s filing challenges policies including eliminating overtime pay for certain postal workers, decommissioning sorting machines, removing mailboxes, reducing operating hours, and changing how election mail is classified and charged.

Bullock asked the court to require DeJoy and the Postal Service to take steps to undo these policies.

According to the lawsuit, slowdowns in the delivery of mail have affected medical prescriptions, applications for jobs and education opportunities, and farming supplies, among other urgent mail.

Following an order issued by Bullock in August, which permitted counties to hold all-mail voting in November, 45 out of Montana’s 56 counties elected to hold the November election primarily by mail. The lawsuit says that changes to the postal service could interfere with residents’ ability to vote.

The lawsuit states that the slowdowns “particularly affect older Montanans, people living in rural farming and ranching communities, and those living on tribal land.”

It comes after the Postal Service announced last month it would suspend plans to remove 30 mail collection boxes in the state, and reinstate 25 collection boxes that had already been removed.

In response to a request for comment, the Postal Service said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.