The United States Postal Service received yet another tongue lashing last night from a judge on the DC District Court. In the latest in a series of emergency orders, the judge ordered the USPS to put an end to any “collection limits” when handling mail from now until the election. Of course, there aren’t really “collection limits” in place and the changes being discussed were in the works long before all of the brouhaha over mail-in voting erupted. Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, wasn’t satisfied with a general order of compliance, however, He’s further ordering that the USPS provide him and the plaintiffs with daily updates on mail delivery statistics until further notice. (Politico)
A federal judge on Tuesday night ordered the U.S. Postal Service to reverse limitations on mail collection imposed by Trump-backed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, giving the agency until Wednesday morning to inform workers of the court’s changes as more mail-in ballots continue to flood in.
In a highly detailed order, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court for the District of Columbia granted an emergency motion by plaintiffs against President Donald Trump to enforce and monitor compliance with Sullivan’s previous injunction tied to USPS services.
No later than 9 a.m. Wednesday, the judge said, agency workers must be told that a USPS leader’s July guidelines limiting late and extra trips to collect mail are rescinded.
This is the sort of ruling that’s sure to generate plenty of headlines favorable to Democrats as they attempt to play both sides of the mail-in voting debate against the middle. Notice how Politico points out in the very first sentence of their article that these “limitations on mail collection” were put in place by the “Trump-backed” Postmaster General. But the limits in question (if you want to call them that) were cost-saving measures intended to help deal with the endless budget shortfalls the Post Office is plagued by. Sending carriers and vehicles out for late deliveries and extra trips every day drives up both overtime costs and fuel/vehicle usage. Delivering the mail that arrives on time for sorting and distribution and holding the late mail for the next scheduled delivery adds a single day to the delivery time for any affected pieces of mail.
The anti-Trump groups behind these lawsuits (and there are more than a few) are obfuscating the issue with a mixed message. On one hand, their lawsuits make it sound as if some evil cabal is working to undermine mail delivery so people’s ballots won’t arrive in time. But these same activists simultaneously insist that mail-in voting is “safe and reliable” so as many people as possible should use it. Make up our minds for us, would you?
Another odd thing about the judge’s order was the requirement that he be provided with “daily updates on the number of extra and late trips occurring every day at national, regional and local levels.” Does Judge Sullivan have any idea how much data that is? There are more than 30,000 post offices in the United States. And he wants daily updates on how many of them had to make extra delivery trips for late mail? Good luck with that.
For their part, the Post Office has repeatedly said that while the greater volume has posed challenges, they are delivering more than 85% of first-class mail on time, with the rest experiencing only minor delays. On top of that, they have already implemented rules requiring them to prioritize election mail until all of the ballots have been delivered.
Of course, the Post Office can’t control instances where people are literally setting mailboxes on fire or other incidents of vandalism. And some of their lazy carriers still seem to be ditching their deliveries in dumpsters. But none of those crazy scenarios appear to have anything to do with the agency’s total capacity and routine delivery practices.
At this point in the cycle it’s a bit late to start making procedural changes, isn’t it? In the end, this will likely produce little more in terms of changes than a couple of paychecks where your postal carriers will get some fat overtime pay just in time for early Christmas shopping.