Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Federal judge orders USPS to prioritize November election mail

US District Judge Marrero in Manhattan ordered the US Postal Service (USPS) Monday to treat all election mail as first-class mail or priority mail express and to pre-approve all overtime that has been or will be requested between October 26 and November 6.

“The entire world is now in the grip of a catastrophic pandemic caused by the coronavirus, a phenomenon that has inflicted a heavier toll of illness and death on the United States than on any other nation,” wrote Marrero. “There is no dispute that this development will bring about a predictable effect at issue here: a significant surge in the volume of election mail the USPS is being called upon to handle.”

Citing “conflicting, vague, and ambivalent managerial signals” from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump, the court implored the USPS to commit to “its historical mission, and so to handle the exceptional burden associated with a profoundly critical task in our democratic system: collecting and delivering election mail in a few weeks from now.”

The 87-page decision highlights the Postal Service’s long and proud tradition of delivering mail “despite any obstacles.” It recalls the USPS’ “extraordinary efforts” to maintain mail service through extreme weather and times of war. Additionally, it reviews the USPS’ “longstanding practice” of treating election mail as first-class mail, even if it is sent at marketing mail rates.

The decision notes that the USPS acknowledges its “public doubts and precarious operational situation” and that it plans to “employ ballot monitors in every processing facility during the week between the election and through Election Day to monitor postmarking and ensure ballots are being processed.”

The court concluded that the plaintiffs identified “a profound and troubling lack of standards and uniformity with regard to the USPS’ handling of election mail.” The court also instructed the USPS to submit several lists to the court outlining its obligations, weekly updates on its implementation plan, and a memorandum from upper-level USPS staff certifying that they have read, reviewed, and understand the court’s order.