Vermont joins lawsuit against proposed USPS reductions

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan joined officials in 13 other states to file a federal lawsuit against proposed operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that would reduce retail hours and employee overtime nationally. 

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday, comes as the country is expected to see a surge of mail-in ballots ahead of the November elections. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted several states to provide absentee ballots to residents who would otherwise not be able to vote in person.

While the Postal Service’s service reduction would have a significant impact on upcoming elections, the lawsuit highlights the other needs that the agency provides for state residents. 

With so much hinging on this year’s election, the last thing this country needs is for the USPS to falter.s.

“Vermonters rely on the Postal Service for timely access to their mail and prescription medications, and mail-in ballots,” said Donovan in the lawsuit.

USPS: Rural Americans depend on mail carriers for medical items

The lawsuit alleges that the changes the Postal Service intended to make — which includes removing postal boxes, eliminating overtime for mail carriers, and reducing operation hours at post offices — fall outside of its jurisdiction and would need to be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Following the lawsuit’s release, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, current head of the USPS, announced that the agency would delay any operational changes until after the Nov. 3 elections. DeJoy is expected to testify in front of Congress Friday to address delays and changes at the nation’s primary mail system.

Expect Vermont absentee ballots in mid-September

In late July, the USPS sent letters to 46 states, including Vermont, alerting election officials that mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time for the November election in order for them to be properly counted.

In a letter sent to Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, the Postal Service stated that ballots should be available to registered voters in Vermont beginning Sept. 18. 

“If ballots are mailed to voters near that date voters would have sufficient time to receive, complete, and return such ballots by the state’s deadline,” said Thomas J. Marshall, the general counsel of the Postal Service, in a letter addressed July 31.

Mailboxes like this one at the corner of College and Church Streets are getting harder to find around Burlington. Forty three have been removed in Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski, and 17 mailbox locations “have been entirely eliminated,” according to Melissa Lohnes, Northeast communications officer with the USPS.

The letter, however, states that the agency could not determine the timing of subsequent mail-in ballots leading up to the Nov. 3 elections, neither did it know whether Vermont registration deadlines would follow existing or new guidelines given the pandemic. 

“Without that additional information, we are unable to assess the potential risks with respect to the Postal Service’s delivery standards at this time.”

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a subscription to the Burlington Free Press.