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Michigan joins lawsuit challenging U.S. Postal Service changes

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan has joined 13 other states in a lawsuit that argues changes made at the U.S. Postal Service are unlawful and threaten the timely delivery of mail.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Michigan's participation in the suit in a Tuesday press release that said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson supported the move. All three officials are Democrats.

Under federal law, changes to U.S. Postal Service operations that affect nationwide mail service have to be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission and the public must be provided an opportunity to comment, Nessel's office said.

A postal worker gets the mail from boxes in front of the United States Postal Service Northend Station in Detroit on Aug, 18, 2020.

"General DeJoy never engaged in that process here,” the lawsuit says. “As a matter of substance, these changes will have a wide range of negative consequences that violate a diverse array of federal laws, from harming individuals with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act to disenfranchising voters in violation of the Constitution."

Many of the moves were longstanding efforts started before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took over in June, DeJoy said in a Tuesday statement announcing he was suspending his cost-cutting moves to avoid any appearance of affecting mail-in ballots for the fall election. 

The Postal Service lost $6.7 billion in the first half of the year as letter and business mail volumes continued to decline, according to the Postal Service.

Leaders of Postal Service unions in Michigan told The Detroit News this week that mail sorting machines had been removed from facilities in Grand Rapids, Detroit and Pontiac and policies had been implemented to limit employees' overtime since DeJoy came on the job in June.

The changes have drawn scrutiny as a surge in mail-in voting is expected for the November election and as President Donald Trump has criticized mail-in voting.

There are some "longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern" as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic, DeJoy said in the statement.

"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability," he said, adding that "I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The new lawsuit asks the court to compel the U.S. Postal Service to submit a proposal requesting an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission. It also seeks an injunction prohibiting the Postal Service from implementing operational changes until it has an appropriate advisory opinion from the commission.

The lawsuit will be filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington, according to the release.

In the suit, Michigan joins Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

cmauger@detroitnews.com