NY-17 Candidate, Co-Plaintiffs Win Suit Against USPS, President Trump | WAMC

NY-17 Candidate, Co-Plaintiffs Win Suit Against USPS, President Trump

Sep 21, 2020

A New York congressional candidate who is considered likely to join the House next year says he and 15 other plaintiffs have won a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and the U.S. Postal Service. The suit sought to protect the right to a free and fair election. This comes as a number of lawsuits in recent weeks aim to protect voter rights and mail-in voting following the Trump Administration’s changes to the Postal Service.

Mondaire Jones, the Democratic candidate in the 17th District, says he led the suit against the president, postal service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

“This lawsuit is about the preservation of democracy itself, which is something that we would expect of any civilized society, right?  But, instead, we have a president and postmaster general who have committed themselves to undermining a free and fair election this November for partisan, political purposes. And, as a candidate for Congress here in New York’s 17th Congressional District, I have a particular constitutional interest in running and competing in a free and fair election but also just as anyone, a private citizen who wants to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted in what is very likely to be the most consequential election of our lifetime, I had to do what folks have been doing across this country, which is having all hands on deck as Congress tries to figure out how to hold this president and the postmaster general accountable, I wanted to do my part by getting a federal district court to weigh in, and that judge, Judge Marrero did that in an incredible way,” Jones says. “He issued a nationwide injunction requiring the Postal Service to treat all election mail as priority and first class; requiring the Postal Service to preapprove all overtime pay for all USPS employees; and, of course, requiring the Postal Service to submit a list of steps that are necessary to restore first-class mail and marketing mail to on-time delivery metrics that preexisted the attempts to dismantle the Postal Service.  And one thing that’s really great about this is now there’s a federal monitor, the judge himself, who’s going to be overseeing the implementation of these promises by the Postal Service.”

Other co-plaintiffs include Democratic State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who represents portions of the Bronx and lower Westchester County, other state-level candidates, and voters who will not be able to vote in person or vote early. They sued to ensure the Postal Service was required to take certain actions, as Jones stated, to ensure the timely delivery of their absentee ballots in the November 3 elections. In a statement, a Postal Service spokesperson says, “The Postal Service is reviewing the court’s decision.  There should be no doubt, however, that the Postal Service is ready and fully committed to handling expected increased volumes of Election Mail between now and the conclusion of the November 3rd election.  Our number one priority is to deliver the nation’s Election Mail securely and in a timely fashion.”

The judge did not grant all injunctions the plaintiffs sought. Jones, a former litigator in the Westchester County Law Department and former Department of Justice staffer during the Obama Administration, explains.

“The lawyers representing us, who are incredible, really pushed to have the mail-sorting machines that were destroyed and the postal boxes that were ripped from the ground reinstated,” says Jones. “You can’t win it all, but one of the great things about this is that the Postal Service is required to get back to the highest levels of the metrics that preexisted these operational changes that were proposed by DeJoy and President Trump.”

At the end of August, New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of states and cities from across the country in filing a lawsuit to stop what she called the Trump Administration’s attempts to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service. One week later, she took further action to halt efforts to undermine the USPS and the election.

In his decision on the suit led by Jones, the judge concluded that “the Court fully understands that the Postal Service’s operations face an exceptional test during the impending national election. But now, more than ever, the Postal Service’s status as a symbol of national unity must be validated by the demonstrated degree of its commitment to utmost effectiveness of Election Mail service. And while the Court has no doubts that the Postal Service’s workforce comprises hardworking and dedicated public servants, multiple managerial failures have undermined the postal employees’ ability to fulfill their vital mission.”

“So long as these ballots are counted, that they are delivered in a timely fashion, we should be good. We should have a free and fair election,” Jones says. ”And it will be up to the judge to determine whether the Postal Service is committed to do that and is on track to do that and, if not, then the judge can always make adjustments to his own injunction.”

Jones is running to succeed fellow Democrat Nita Lowey, who is not seeking re-election to the 17th District that includes all of Rockland County and part of Westchester.