- 65 million The number of votes cast by mail in 2020
- 6 orders The number of orders the court issued granting our requests to ensure timely of delivery of mailed ballots in the month leading up to the 2020 general election
- 7 years The time during which a settlement to ensure that extraordinary measures to ensure timely delivery of mailed ballots is in effect
“The litigation against the Postal Service during [the 2020] election season had a significant impact on the timely delivery of mailed ballots. Through this settlement, we are putting in place mechanisms to ensure that the Postal Service has procedures to handle election mail, to avoid the need for similar lawsuits every two years. The settlement helps to guard against politicization of mail delivery and facilitates citizens’ ability to exercise the fundamental right to vote.”said Allison Zieve, director of Public Citizen Litigation Group.
During the midst of a pandemic and a presidential election cycle, when prompt mail delivery matters more than ever, the Postal Service made significant changes that resulted in unreliable service and widespread delays. To safeguard the right to vote, Public Citizen challenged those changes in court.
On July 10, 2020, the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, announced a major operational “Pivot,” which imposed significant restrictions on the timing and nature of letter carrier routes. In so doing, he acknowledged that employees would “see mail left behind or on the workroom floor or docks” as a result. In the month since, there were substantial delays in mail service across the nation, with entire towns in rural areas not receiving their mail on certain days and people in some cities going days or weeks without receiving any mail at all. The delays caused Americans to go without medicines and benefits, and they prevented eligible Americans from voting by mail in their primary elections.
Public Citizen, representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and co-counseling with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed suit to require the Postal Service to suspend these changes, to restore prompt and reliable mail delivery, and to ensure that mail-in ballots are accorded priority status, as they have been in past years. On September 1, 2020, Public Citizen filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The court granted the motion, holding that we were likely to succeed on the merits of the claim that the Postal Service made changes to transportation policy without following procedures required by law.
Two weeks later, in light of USPS’s inadequate response to the preliminary injunction, Public Citizen filed an emergency motion to enforce the injunction and to establish daily monitoring of USPS’s service. The court granted that motion on October 27, 2020 and ordered additional emergency relief on October 30, November 1, and November 3. Public Citizen later entered into an agreement with the Postal Service addressing measures to be taken to ensure timely delivery of ballots for the Georgia runoff election held that December.
In March 2021, the complaint was amended to address both the changes to transportation policy and the Postal Service’s failure to adopt procedures to ensure prompt and reliable mail-in ballot delivery in future elections.
In December 2021, Public Citizen entered into a settlement under which the Postal Service agreed to meet with NAACP in the months before each national primary and general election through 2028 and to provide weekly reports on service performance during the six weeks leading up to general elections. The Postal Service also agreed to issue publicly available guidance documents to address its plans for prioritizing the monitoring and timely delivery of election mail for the national general elections through 2028. The parties expect that these measures will be similar to the “extraordinary measures” used in the weeks leading up to the 2020 general election. Those measures, which the court required the Postal Service to implement in response to our motions in 2020, helped to ensure that the vast majority of mailed ballots were delivered to the boards of elections in time to be counted.