Judge grants local nonprofit’s injunction against USPS | AspenTimes.com
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Judge grants local nonprofit’s injunction against USPS

Marchers gather on Main Street in an effort to save the United States Postal Service on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Aspen. The USPS has recently become the center of attention with the presedential election only a few months away. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A United States District Judge has granted a motion made by Glenwood Springs-based Voces Unidas, along with four other plaintiffs, for a preliminary injunction barring the postal service from implementing its policy reducing late and extra trips.

The lawsuit was filed in August and challenged recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service that the plaintiffs claim are creating mail delays and threatening the ability of voters to have their ballots counted in the Nov. 3 election.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on Monday granted the motion, writing in his opinion that “the balance of the equities and the public interest favor an injunction.”

Latino-led nonprofit Voces Unidas asked the court to reverse policies set by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which have slowed down the delivery of mail by as long as three days.

The lawsuit claimed that DeJoy’s policies to remove sorting machines, eliminate extra and late trips and reducing unnecessary and unauthorized overtime, jeopardize millions of Americans, particularly those who live in rural areas, from being able to cast their vote during a pandemic.

“This is an important victory in our fight to ensure that the postal service remains a reliable and efficient way for us to reach voters,” said Alex Sánchez, executive director of Voces Unidas de las Montañas. “There is too much at stake in this election, with voters in Colorado set to receive their mail-in ballots starting on Oct. 9.

“(The) ruling will help us ensure that rural communities trust that their voice will be heard in the election this fall.”

Sullivan wrote in his opinion that the “plaintiffs have provided sufficient evidence suggesting that defendants’ policy has caused and will continue to cause inconsistency and delays in the delivery of mail across the United States, placing at particular risk voters residing in one of the 28 states that require mail ballots to be received, not just postmarked, by Election Day.”

His opinion notes that a “conservative” estimate predicts that 80 million ballots will be submitted by mail.

“There is simply no reason for the Court to ignore the severe reality that the country is in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” Sullivan wrote. “The USPS policy thus directly impacts and controls the ability of millions of citizens to have their vote counted.

“Regardless of the intent behind the changes, the USPS policy will invariably impose some burden upon individual voters and their constitutional rights in an election year,” he continued. “Plaintiffs simply cannot predict when their ballots will arrive at their intended destination.

Sullivan determined that plaintiffs met the legal standard for a preliminary injunction, which is that they are likely able to succeed on the merits; suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; that the balance of equities tips in their favor; and that an injunction is in the public interest.

Latinos represent 30% of the population in Garfield and Eagle counties and 10% of the population in Pitkin County. That represents about 9,000 registered Latino voters in the tri-county region, according to Sanchez.

Voces Unidas, whose mission is to elevate the voices of Latinos in the region, filed the lawsuit with two other Colorado-based Latino organizations, with support from the National Redistricting Foundation.

Judge Sullivan acknowledged the potential harm on local efforts to get disenfranchised voters to the polls.

“… To counteract the harms caused by the USPS policy changes, Voces Unidas — an organization ‘dedicated to increasing civic engagement of the Latino population in three rural Colorado counties’ through get-out-the-vote campaigns — estimates it will need to spend between $50,000 to $80,000 beyond its original budget through hiring ‘additional canvassers to intensify the campaign earlier than previously anticipated and to pay for additional advertising and dissemination of information to the communities it serves.’”

csackariason@aspentimes.com


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