Coronavirus fuels historic legal battle over voting as 2020 U.S. election looms

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – The Nov. 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has generated an unprecedented wave of election-related litigation, as both sides seek to shape the rules governing how votes are tallied in key states.

With 40 days left, the court clashes have spread to every competitive state amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has fueled pitched battles over seemingly mundane issues such as witness signatures, U.S. mail postmarks and the use of drop boxes for ballots.

Trump’s unfounded attacks on voting by mail and delivery delays amid cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service have only intensified the urgency of the litigation.

A Reuters analysis of state and federal court records found more than 200 election-related cases pending as of Tuesday. Overall, at least 250 election lawsuits spurred by the coronavirus have been filed, according to Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who has been tracking the litigation.

The pandemic has turned what were once minor hurdles, such as witness signature requirements, into potentially major obstacles, while exacerbating existing concerns.

“In the past, long lines would be disenfranchising or deterring, but in this case they can be deadly,” said Myrna Perez, who directs the voting rights and elections program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Democrats generally have sought to ease restrictions on mail ballots, which are surging as voters want to avoid the risk of visiting in-person polling sites.

“The Biden campaign has assembled the biggest voter protection program in history to ensure our election runs smoothly and to combat any attempt by Donald Trump to interfere in the democratic process,” Mike Gwin, a Biden spokesman, said.

Republicans say they are trying to prevent illegal voting, although experts say voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

“Democrats are working to shred election integrity measures one state at a time, and there’s no question they’ll continue their shenanigans from now to November and beyond,” said Matthew Morgan, general counsel for the Trump campaign.

A flurry of court decisions this month have delivered several Democratic wins, although many remain subject to appeal. In the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, officials will count ballots that arrive after Nov. 3, as long as they were sent by Election Day.

Several pending cases, including in competitive Texas, Pennsylvania and Michigan, could have a major impact on those states’ elections.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, Republicans will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in after the state’s highest court rejected their bid to limit drop boxes and disqualify late-arriving ballots. The Trump campaign is pursuing a separate federal lawsuit over some of the same issues.

In Texas, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, has sued officials in Harris County to stop them from sending absentee ballot applications to all voters. The county, which includes Houston, is the state’s most populous, with nearly 5 million residents.

Republicans prevailed in several earlier cases.

In Florida, a federal appeals court blocked hundreds of thousands of ex-felons from voting in November. In Texas, where only those 65 years and older can vote by mail without having to provide a valid reason such as disability, a series of court rulings have stymied Democratic efforts to extend that right to all residents.

SUPREME COURT BATTLE TO COME?

The influx of cases may also be a preview of what is to come after Nov. 3, when new fights could arise over which ballots should be counted.

Both campaigns have assembled armies of lawyers in preparation.

The Biden campaign has lined up hundreds of attorneys and has brought in top lawyers like former U.S. Solicitors General Donald Verrilli and Walter Dellinger and former Attorney General Eric Holder as advisers.

Marc Elias, the Democratic attorney who has coordinated many election lawsuits this year on behalf of left-leaning groups, is heading a team focused on state-by-state voter protection.

Trump’s campaign, for its part, has filed multiple challenges to states like Nevada and New Jersey that plan to mail a ballot to every voter.

Some Democrats are concerned that if Republicans succeed in getting a successor to the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the election, it will ensure Trump wins any dispute that ends up at the high court.

The Supreme Court’s decision in 2000 to stop the Florida recount handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush, the only time the high court has decided the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

Trump has seemingly laid the groundwork for a post-election fight, repeatedly asserting without evidence that voting by mail will yield a “rigged” result.

On Wednesday, the president said explicitly that he wanted to have Ginsburg’s successor in place because he expects the election to end up at the Supreme Court.

Levitt, the law professor tracking the cases, said he still trusted that judges would reject challenges not backed by evidence.

“Filing a case costs a few hundred dollars and a lawyer, and can often be useful for messaging,” he said. “But courts of law demand evidence that the court of public opinion doesn’t.”

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Disha Raychaudhuri; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

U.S. judge orders Post Office to expedite November election mail

By David Shepardson and Joseph Ax

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to expedite all November election mail and to approve additional overtime for postal workers.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan said the Postal Service must treat to the extent possible all election mail as first-class mail or priority mail express and “shall pre-approve all overtime that has been or will be requested” between Oct. 26 and Nov. 6.

Marrero’s opinion said that in prior elections, including 2018, the Postal Service typically treated election mail as first-class mail, even if it was sent at marketing mail rates.

“Multiple managerial failures have undermined the postal employees’ ability to fulfill their vital mission,” he wrote.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, said he was issuing a nationwide injunction sought by 14 states in a case against President Donald Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and the U.S. Postal Service over July changes to the service.

The 14 states, led by Washington, had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to immediately halt a “leave mail behind” policy that required postal trucks to leave at certain times, regardless of whether mail was loaded.

DeJoy, a Trump supporter, said in August that he would halt many of the cost-cutting changes he put in place until after the presidential election after Democrats accused him of trying to put his thumb on the scales to help Trump, which he has denied. A surge in mail-in ballots is expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said last week while the agency was exploring its legal options, it was “ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives.”

“Our number one priority is to deliver election mail on time,” Partenheimer said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Michigan court rules that late arriving ballots must be counted

By Michael Martina

DETROIT (Reuters) – A Michigan judge ruled on Friday that mailed ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 must be counted in the state as long as they are received within two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, the latest move by a U.S. court to protect voting rights in the pandemic.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens made the ruling in a case brought by the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, and argued for by Marc Elias, an elections lawyer working with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign.

The ruling said the ballots must be received “by the clerk’s office no later than 14 days after the election has occurred,” and would apply to this year’s election as a special provision due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Late arriving ballots “are eligible to be counted in the same manner as all provisional ballots” up until the time when the election is certified, Stephens said.

Elias, in a tweet, called the ruling a “major victory for voting rights” in the state, though it is likely to be appealed.

“This helps rectify issues with delays from the USPS, while relieving pressure on voters to make sure their ballot is received in time to be counted,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes. “This is a victory for every voter in Michigan.”

Democrats and Republicans have clashed over the rules for voting by mail ahead of the November election, when there is expected to be a surge in mail voting because of the virus.

That has led to controversy over whether the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will be able to handle the mail rush in time to ensure that voters who mailed their ballots would not be disenfranchised.

The Michigan ruling also cleared the way for anyone to help deliver a person’s ballot to clerks “between 5:01 p.m. on the Friday before the election and the close of polls on Election Day,” a practice normally banned under law unless the delivery is done by a family member, an election official or mail carrier.

The ruling came a day after Pennsylvania’s top court ruled that state officials can accept mail ballots up to three days after the election, as long as they were mailed by Election Day.

But not all courts have moved to expand voting rights.

A federal appeals court last week rejected Texas Democrats’ bid to allow all state residents to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s law extending that right only to those over 65 was not unconstitutional age discrimination.

Another federal appeals court last week said Florida could require felons to pay all fines, restitution and legal fees they face before they can regain their right to vote.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump urges Republicans to go for ‘higher numbers’ on coronavirus relief

By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Trump urged his fellow Republicans Wednesday to go for “much higher numbers” in a coronavirus aid bill, as a stalemate continued in Washington over whether to approve more economic relief from the crisis ahead of Nov. 3 elections.

The Senate’s number two Republican, John Thune, reacted cautiously to Trump’s appeal on Twitter.

The standoff dates to mid-May, when the Democratic-majority House of Representatives approved $3.4 trillion in new aid, including unemployment benefits, money for schools, the U.S. Postal Service, and testing.

The Senate’s Republican leaders countered with a $1 trillion plan, but some of their own members balked at that. Last week they put a $300 billion bill up for a vote that Democrats blocked as insufficient.

“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!)” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

Congress and the White House approved more than $3 trillion worth of coronavirus relief measures earlier this year.

Thune, speaking after Trump’s tweet, said proposals had to stay in a “realistic” range. Noting the original $1 trillion Senate Republican plan, he said: “As you go upwards from there you start … losing Republican support pretty quickly.”

A $1.5 trillion compromise floated Tuesday by the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of dozens of centrist lawmakers, was attacked by members of both parties, including leading House Democrats. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, however, said it deserved consideration.

Thune said there was some Republican interest in the $1.5 trillion package, but that the $500 trillion it included in aid for state and local governments would be hard for Republican senators to swallow. Meadows told reporters Wednesday that the state and local issue was probably the biggest obstacle to a deal.

Another Republican senator said Wednesday he thought a deal of around $1.5 trillion or $1.7 trillion was possible.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has offered to drop her aid demand to about $2.2 trillion. She faces growing pressure from moderate Democrats to take another vote on COVID-19 relief, but told MSNBC Wednesday that the way forward depends on the willingness of the White House to accept a bill large enough to address the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we want is to put something on the floor that will become law. And so that requires a negotiation,” she said. “We think they (the White House) should come to the table.”

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Ballot drop boxes are latest battleground in U.S. election fight

By Andy Sullivan and Jarrett Renshaw

(Reuters) – Welcome to the latest partisan flash point in the U.S. presidential election: the ballot drop box.

As U.S. election officials gird for a dramatic expansion of mail voting in the Nov. 3 election, Democrats across the country are promoting drop boxes as a convenient and reliable option for voters who don’t want to entrust their ballots to the U.S. Postal Service.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, has sued to prevent their use in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, alleging that the receptacles could enable voting fraud.

Republican officials in other states have prevented their use. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett told a U.S. Senate committee in July that drop boxes could enable people to violate a state law against collecting ballots.

In Missouri, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft decided not to distribute 80 drop boxes he had purchased because state law requires those ballots to be returned by mail.

“We didn’t want to cause confusion with voters,” spokeswoman Maura Browning said.

Drop boxes have taken on new urgency after cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service slowed mail delivery nationwide and Trump has repeatedly attacked the legitimacy of mail ballots. Polls show the Republican president trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in a race that some experts say could see half of all votes cast absentee.

Some say the drop box battle is a lot of fuss over a piece of civic furniture — typically a heavily constructed metal box placed in a public location, often monitored by video.

In Connecticut, Secretary of State Denise Merrill is recommending that voters return their ballots via drop box rather than through the mail for the November election, after receiving reports that some ballots mailed a week before the state’s Aug. 11 nominating contests arrived too late to be counted.

Three-quarters of ballots in that August primary were cast absentee, she said, up from roughly 4% in prior years. Merrill, a Democrat, said the state’s 200 newly installed drop boxes had proven a safe and popular option.

“I do not understand why people think they’re such a problem,” Merrill said. “They’re more secure than mailboxes.”

Republicans in Pennsylvania don’t share that sentiment. Trump won that competitive state by less than 1 percentage point in 2016. Winning there again could prove pivotal in his quest to secure a second term in office.

The Trump campaign is suing to force the state to pull all drop boxes used in the June primary. It argues that people could drop off multiple ballots in boxes that are unstaffed, which is an illegal practice in Pennsylvania. State officials “have exponentially enhanced the threat that fraudulent or otherwise ineligible ballots will be cast and counted,” the lawsuit states.

The Trump campaign said in a court filing on Saturday that it had complied with a judge’s order to provide evidence of alleged fraud to the defendants. That evidence has not been made public. Trump lawyers did not respond to a request by Reuters to see it.

Bruce Marks, a former Republican state senator in Pennsylvania, said drop boxes do not provide a clear chain of custody for the ballots deposited inside.

“There’s no one watching or tracking,” he said.

Proponents say stuffing a ballot into a locked drop box is no different from dropping one into a Postal Service letter box. Pennsylvania Republicans oppose drop boxes because Democrats have had much more success in getting their voters to sign up for mail ballots this year, greater than a two-to-on margin, said Brendan Welch, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

“(Republicans) know the easier it is for everyday people to vote, the more likely it is that they will lose,” Welch said. “Maybe they should spend their energy trying to match Pennsylvania Democrats’ organizing efforts in the Keystone State instead.”

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has defended Pennsylvania’s use of drop boxes, arguing they are legal and essential, particularly in the age of the coronavirus.

ONE BOX, 864,000 VOTERS

In neighboring Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said last week that he did not want to risk a similar lawsuit as he announced that he would authorize one drop box for each of the state’s 88 counties. He said the Republican-controlled legislature had not given him the authority to provide more.

Democrats are pressing LaRose to revise his decision, pointing out that it leaves the 864,000 registered voters of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold, with the same number of drop boxes as the 8,400 registered voters of Republican Vinton County.

“You can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach with our counties,” said Kathleen Clyde, a senior adviser for the Biden campaign in Ohio. “One drop box doesn’t cut it.”

LaRose in the meantime is trying to secure prepaid postage for mail ballots, spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan said, “effectively making every mailbox its own drop box.”

Michigan, another battleground state, has added drop boxes this year.

Wisconsin’s five largest cities, including Milwaukee, are setting up drop boxes as part of a secure-voting plan funded by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit group.

In hotly contested Florida, Democrats in Miami-Dade County, the state’s largest, are seeking to remove some procedural hurdles to make it easier for voters to use drop boxes.

Unlike other counties in the state, Miami-Dade voters must provide election officials with valid identification when dropping off a ballot at a drop box. Election workers also manually record a 14-digit number printed on the voter’s envelope into a log.

The whole process can take up to three minutes, the Democratic Party said in a letter to local election officials seeking to allow voters to drop their ballots quickly without the processing requirements.

“Trump has sabotaged the post office deliberately and we have to find ways around that. We think making it easier to use a drop box, and avoid the post office, is part of the solution,” said Steve Simeonidis, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.

The White House has said Trump never told the Postal Service to change its operations.

NOT TENSE EVERYWHERE

Security measures required for ballot drop boxes vary by state. In Montana, these receptacles must be staffed by at least two election officials, while in New Mexico they must be monitored by video, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Before 2020, eight states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — had laws detailing how and where drop boxes could be used.

Returning ballots this way proved popular: In Colorado, Oregon and Washington, more than half of mail ballots were returned either to a drop box or to an election office in the 2016 presidential election, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey.

Drop boxes haven’t been controversial in those states.

“Both parties use it at a really high rate, so a lot of those tensions don’t exist here,” said Murphy Bannerman of Election Protection Arizona, a nonpartisan voting-rights group.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington and Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia; Editing by Marla Dickerson)

U.S. official sees ‘real desire’ for smaller coronavirus relief bill

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) – Some Democrats and Republicans have a “real desire” to reach agreement on a smaller coronavirus relief bill that could be worth around $500 billion, a senior Trump administration official said late on Tuesday.

The official said the agreement could include funding for the U.S. Postal Service, additional funding for loans to small- and medium-sized businesses to keep workers on their payrolls and potentially added money for schools.

“I think there’s a real desire by some in the Democratic caucus and some in the Republican conference, both in the House and the Senate, to do a smaller deal on the things we can agree upon,” the official said. “It could be about $500 billion.”

That amount still falls far short of what Democrats have been seeking in protracted discussions with the administration.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation.

“We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Pelosi said in an online interview with Politico. “We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now.”

The Democratic-led House passed legislation with over $3 trillion in relief in May. Democrats offered this month to reduce that sum by $1 trillion, but the White House rejected it.

The two sides remain about $2 trillion apart, with wide gaps on funding for schools, aid to state and local governments, and enhanced unemployment benefits.

The senior administration official said while a narrow agreement was possible on some issues, he did not see aid to state and local governments and a fresh round of stimulus checks as possible at the moment.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam)

U.S. Postal Service warns of ‘significant risk’ of late ballots

By Andy Sullivan and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ahead of a presidential election that could see up to half of U.S. voters cast their ballots by mail, the U.S. Postal Service is warning some states that they need to provide more time for those votes to be counted.

The Postal Service has told at least three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington — there is “significant risk” voters will not have enough time to complete their ballots and return them on time under current state laws, which allow them to request ballots just days before the election.

The letters highlight the possibility that a meaningful number of mail votes in the Nov. 3 presidential election might go uncounted if they are returned too late.

“State and local election officials must understand and take into account our operational standards and recommended timelines,” Postal Service spokeswoman Martha Johnson said. She did not respond to a question about how many states in total got warning letters.

Election officials have scrambled to prepare for a deluge of mail ballots as Americans avoid public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted many states to make it easier to vote by mail.

The Postal Service itself has gotten pulled into a political fight, with Republican President Donald Trump on Thursday saying he objected to providing funds for the struggling service or mail voting as part of a coronavirus relief package.

Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls, has railed against widespread mail voting, saying without evidence that it could lead to fraud.

Biden and other top Democrats have accused Trump of trying to discourage mail voting because he believes doing so would boost his re-election chances.

Election experts say mail voting is as secure as any other method.

TOO LITTLE TIME?

The Postal Service has warned some states that allowing voters to request ballots less than a week before the election does not leave enough time to print up the ballot, mail it to the voter and have it returned.

“There is significant risk that the voter will not have sufficient time to complete and mail the completed ballot back to election officials in time for it to arrive by the state’s return deadline,” Postal Service General Counsel Thomas Marshall wrote in a July 29 letter to Michigan’s top election official seen by Reuters.

Half of the states allow voters to request an absentee ballot within seven days of an election. The Postal Service recommends that mail ballots should be completed and in the mail back to election offices by that point, according to Marshall’s letter.

Ohio, Michigan and several other states with tight deadlines have so far not pushed them back.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of state asked the state Supreme Court to allow ballots to be counted if they are received up to three days after the Nov. 3 election, rather than on Election Day.

Marshall also encouraged election officials to use its first-class mail service to ensure prompt delivery, rather than the cheaper and slower bulk-mail rate.

In past elections the Postal Service has given priority to all political and election mail, no matter the postage rate, according to workers and the service’s internal watchdog.

“If this letter aims to backtrack on that collaboration or the promise of prioritization of election mail, that would be very concerning,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of State, which oversees elections.

Roughly 0.25% of mail ballots were rejected in 2016 because they arrived too late, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Problems with mail ballots have marred many primary elections this year. Voters in Georgia reported not getting requested mail ballots, while in New York a judge ordered election officials to count thousands of ballots they had rejected for missing that state’s deadline.

The issue has taken on added urgency in recent weeks, as cost-cutting measures put in place by Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, have led to widespread mail delays.

“They’re not moving as fast as they normally would, and I think we know that,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at a news conference on Wednesday. He urged voters to complete their ballots as quickly as possible.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and David Shepardson; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

New Jersey to give voters in-person, mail-in option in November election, governor says

(Reuters) – New Jersey voters will have the choice in the November election of using ballots mailed to their homes or going to their local polling places, just as they did during last month’s primary elections, Governor Phil Murphy said on Friday.

“We’re going to have a hybrid model in November,” Murphy said on CNN. “We liked what we saw. We’ll tweak it. And that’s where we’re headed.”

A formal announcement will be made later on Friday, Murphy said.

Under the procedure, which is designed to protect residents from exposure to the coronavirus, all registered voters will have ballots mailed to their homes which they can mail back or place in secure “drop boxes.”

Residents who opt to go to their local polling places on Nov. 3 will do so in “provisional voting,” meaning they must use paper ballots, not voting machines, so that officials can guard against duplicate voting, Murphy said.

The process is “a little bit more cumbersome but it works,” he said.

Mail-in voting, which several states encouraged because of the pandemic, often led to delays in reporting the results of this year’s primary elections, especially in close races, because of the additional time needed to count them. States often required mail-in ballots to be postmarked by Election Day.

Asked whether he was concerned about the reliability of the U.S. Postal Service, Murphy acknowledged that there were delays because of personnel shortages in the first two months of the pandemic, but said “as far as we can tell, it’s behind us.”

“We’ve been in constant touch with the U.S. Postal Service,” he said. “We’ve pressed them hard. We’ll continue to press them hard.”

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Trump says he is holding up coronavirus aid to block Democrats’ bid for election funding

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Funding for the U.S. Postal Service and to shore up election infrastructure is the main sticking point in talks between the White House and top congressional Democrats over a fresh round of coronavirus relief, President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

Trump said his negotiators have resisted Democrats’ calls for additional money to help U.S. election officials prepare for a presidential contest during a pandemic that has killed more than 165,000 Americans and presented severe logistical challenges to organizing large events like the Nov. 3 election.

“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told Fox Business Network, saying Democrats want to give the post office $25 billion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. It just can’t happen.”

Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that mail-in voting, a way to allow citizens to take part in the election without creating crowding that raises the risk of transmitting COVID-19, is likely to be rife with fraud. Experts who study elections say there is little proof that this is the case.

The White House negotiating team of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has not met with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in six days.

When the two sides last met Friday, they were some $2 trillion apart in their negotiating positions. A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed that Americans blame both parties for the standoff, which has led to the expiration of a $600 per week lifeline to unemployed people.

New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has donated $2.7 million to Trump and his fellow Republicans since 2017, has ordered operational changes and a clampdown on overtime in a bid to fix the financially troubled Postal Service, which reported a net loss of $2.2 billion in the last quarter.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Catherine Evans and Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. House panel to hold Postal Service hearing amid 2020 election concerns

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House of Representatives committee plans to hold a Sept. 17 hearing with new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to examine operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service amid concerns about the 2020 election and recent reports of a slowdown in some deliveries.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform invited DeJoy “to examine recent changes to U.S. Postal Service operations and standards and the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election, which as you know may be held largely by mail-in ballot,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the panel.

Maloney and other senior House Democrats warned in a July 20 letter that “increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner — an unacceptable outcome for a free and fair election.”

A spokesman for DeJoy declined to comment on the hearing.

The Postal Service will report third-quarter financials on Friday when the board holds a virtual meeting.

A group of senators last week raised concerns that delaying mail deliveries could hinder attempts to mail in ballots for the 2020 election by Americans fearful about voting in person during a pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to sue Nevada after Democratic lawmakers passed a bill on Sunday that would send mail-in ballots to every voter ahead of November’s presidential election in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who has claimed without evidence that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the legislation approved on Sunday was an “illegal late night coup.”

If the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, signs the bill as expected, Nevada would become the seventh state to send ballots to all registered voters for the Nov. 3 election.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)