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Pennsylvania joined six other states and the District of Columbia in requesting a halt on cost-cutting changes to the United States Postal Service.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

A federal judge in Philadelphia has ordered the United States Postal Service to halt cost-cutting changes that would cause mail delays and potentially affect people’s ability to vote.  

Pennsylvania joined six other states and the District of Columbia on Monday in requesting the halt. U.S District Judge Gerald A. McHugh of Philadelphia cited “compelling evidence” from the Postal Service that showed “a pronounced increase in mail delays across the country” since July.

In a preliminary injunction, McHugh wrote that states must be able to rely on the USPS, especially when administering elections during a pandemic, as many people may choose to vote by mail rather than going to the polls. 

Lawyers for the USPS said that although the Postal Service never ordered a slowdown on the mail, local post managers may have interpreted new guidance in that way. In July, the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a number of orders to cut costs within the USPS, which has lost billions of dollars since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. These changes prevented employees from working overtime and from making extra trips to deliver late mail.

Pennsylvania state officials found that on-time delivery of first-class mail fell 10% from July to August, causing concern that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted for the November election, PennLive reported. The halt issued by McHugh may help Penn students, many of whom will be voting by mail, participate in the November elections.

Earlier this year, Penn students reported trouble receiving their mail-in ballots on time to vote in the June Pennsylvania state primaries. Some students expressed frustration because they did not receive their ballots even though they applied for them before the deadline. 

College junior and Penn Democrats deputy board member Allan Cate said he requested a mail-in ballot for the November election because he did not have access to a printer to print out the online application. 

"Getting the ballot has been difficult,” Cate said. “It took three weeks to arrive.” 

Cate worries that many people do not know about the USPS delays, and will be unlikely to request and return their ballot early.

"I have faith in the [vote by mail] process,” Cate said. “However, not everyone will start the process for a November election in early September".