U.S. Postal Service asks judge to clarify ruling it says could undermine election mail

FILE PHOTO: A box to drop off ballots, instead of attempting to mail them via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), stands on a sidewalk in Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S., August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Postal Service has asked a federal judge to clarify a ruling on election mail, saying the decision could hinder the agency’s ability to make prompt mail deliveries before the Nov. 3 elections.

Four U.S. judges have issued preliminary injunctions barring the Postal Service from making service reductions before the vote. Many more voters than usual are expected to cast their ballots by mail instead of in person because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said, without providing evidence, that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud.

The Postal Service in a court filing late on Monday cited a Sept. 27 decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia that requires election mail be sent via plane, saying it “would constitute a major change that would seriously disrupt the processing of the mail and may not, in fact, be possible.”

The Postal Service said it may be able to implement long-term solutions to distinguish Election Mail “sent as Marketing Mail from other Marketing Mail” but said “it is not possible to implement those solutions this close to an election, especially as states have begun printing and mailing ballots.”

The Postal Service asked Sullivan for clarification because his ruling would “undermine the Postal Service’s ability to timely deliver the mail before the upcoming election.”

The Postal Service added it “will employ special individualized measures to deliver individual ballots mailed close to elections, which may include manually separating them and moving them by air.”

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who took over in June, had been criticized by lawmakers and others for organizational changes that would delay mail delivery. In August, DeJoy agreed to suspend any changes through Election Day.

Several courts have ordered the Postal Service to treat all election mail as first-class or priority mail express.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool