Sept. 28 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to stop implementing changes ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that critics have argued were put in place to restrict the effectiveness of mail-in ballots ahead of November's general election.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court of Columbia ruled Sunday that the changes ordered by DeJoy over the summer were implemented without first submitting a proposal to change policy to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission as required by law.
States and counties have been seeking to expand mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the USPS and its postmaster general have come under criticism for changes made over the summer that some argue were pursued under the Trump administration to limit voting.
In June and July, the USPS announced the implementation of four changes to how it collects, processes and delivers mail. Among those changes include the removal of 671 high-speed sorting machines, the prohibition of non-scheduled late and extra deliveries and the banning of mail carriers in certain cities from spending time in the morning sorting mail, meaning that some mail would be delivered a day late.
In his 39-page ruling, Sullivan wrote that USPS records indicate that national mail delivery has experienced delays following the implementation of these changes and that "the plaintiffs have shown that there is a substantial likelihood that the on-going non-speculative harms they alleged caused by mail delays are 'fairly traceable' to the Postal Policy Changes."
"It is clearly in the public interest to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to ensure safe alternatives to in-person voting and to require that the USPS comply with the law," he wrote.
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed late August by the states of New York, Hawaii and New Jersey as well as the cities of New York and San Francisco.
Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general for New York, announced their victory on Twitter Sunday, stating they have blocked the "Trump administration's attempt to dismantle the USPS."
"We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot in November, period," she said.
When she filed the lawsuit in August, she accused the changes to the USPS as "nothing more than a voter suppression tactic."
It is the third injunction issued blocking the Trump administration from implementing the changes to the USPS after Judge Stanley A. Bastian ruled DeJoy's changes would "likely slow down delivery of ballots" and Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan ordered the postal service to prioritize election mail and reverse some of the postmaster general's changes ahead of the presidential vote.