6 states sue USPS saying changes have harmed ability to conduct ‘free and fair elections’

Six states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Friday against new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy alleging new “unlawful” mail policy changes have affected their ability to conduct “free and fair elections.”

The states allege that DeJoy’s efforts to cut costs have led to significant mail delays across the country and jeopardize the Nov. 3 general election where more Americans than ever will cast their ballots by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pennsylvania, quotes heavily from President Trump’s tweets over his opposition to mail-in voting and asks the court to reverse mail service changes implemented by DeJoy, a GOP donor and Trump ally, and declare them unlawful.

“Defendants have abruptly and unlawfully impaired the operation of the postal services and have acted to cast doubt on the Postal Service’s ability to facilitate mail-in voting,” the lawsuit alleges.

Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and the District of Columbia jointly filed the suit. In addition to DeJoy, the lawsuit names the United States Postal Service and Robert Duncan, chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, as defendants.

On Tuesday, 14 other states filed a lawsuit against Trump, DeJoy and the USPS in federal court in Washington state alleging the postal changes could undermine the 2020 election. The states suing in that lawsuit are Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin and Virginia.

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The new lawsuit alleges violations to the Postal Reorganization Act for making policy changes without first submitting the proposal to the Postal Regulatory Commission, violations to the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution for interfering in how states conduct elections and violations of the 26th Amendment of the Constitution for “significantly and disproportionately” harming older voters who are more likely to vote by mail due to health risks from COVID-19.

In this image from video, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a video virtual hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on the U.S. Postal Service during COVID-19 and the upcoming elections, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs via AP)

In this image from video, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a video virtual hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on the U.S. Postal Service during COVID-19 and the upcoming elections, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs via AP)

“The service delays caused by Postal Service’s implementation of sweeping new policies in the midst of a pandemic may disenfranchise voters because their ballots will not be sent or received in time and may deter people from voting because they do not trust that their ballot will be delivered,” the lawsuit says.

Among the policy changes the lawsuit seeks to reverse are: prohibiting late or extra trips by postal workers “that are often necessary to keep the mail moving forward in the mainstream,” requiring mail carriers to adhere rigidly to start and stop times regardless of whether all the mail on their route has been delivered, limiting the use of overtime and no longer giving election materials the highest priority regardless of the class of mail it was sent.

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Amid nationwide concern about mail delays, and even protests outside his DC home, DeJoy announced Tuesday his cost-cutting measures would be put on hold.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement.

Democrats, however, said DeJoy didn’t go far enough and the House will vote Saturday on legislation to undo his operational changes and provide $25 billion in funding for the USPS.

DeJoy appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Friday where he sought to reassure lawmakers election ballots will be counted if received within seven days of the election.

“As we head into this election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time. This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day,” DeJoy said.

He added: “The women and men of the Postal Service have demonstrated extraordinary commitment for our mission throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In every community in America, we continue to work to keep our employees and customers safe as we fulfill our essential role depending medications, benefit checks and financial statements the public depends upon.”

Fox News’ Tyler Olsen and Lissa Kaplan contributed to this report.