On Friday, the County of Santa Clara and Public Rights Project filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a nationwide coalition of local and tribal governments opposing recent U.S. Postal Service (USPS) changes that have slowed critically important mail delivery. The brief, filed by 32 local and tribal governments, urges courts in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania to block the USPS changes, which impede the ability of localities to administer the November election and provide other core governmental services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting in July 2020, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented a number of changes at USPS that have slowed down mail delivery and will make it harder for vulnerable communities, such as the elderly and communities of color, to vote by mail and receive essential government services. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted these same communities, and due to the changes, now face even greater hurdles in exercising their right to vote and receiving often life-saving services such as mail-delivered prescriptions.
“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, during the most significant pandemic since that time, I am proud that the County of Santa Clara is leading this coalition of local and tribal governments to clearly demonstrate how the recent USPS policy changes would interfere with our efforts to ensure that everyone can safely vote,” said Cindy Chavez, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
The amicus brief highlights how the USPS changes and resulting mail delays directly interfere with local and tribal government plans to administer the November election, including by delaying the delivery and receipt of ballots—posing a particular risk that ballots cast by members of the military overseas as well as elderly and disabled voters mailing their ballots will not be received in time to be counted. As a result, many local and tribal governments now must revamp election plans and find the funds—a mere two months before the election—to increase voting hours, secure additional polling locations, and/or add ballot drop boxes to ensure their constituents can safely and reliably exercise their right to vote.
“The Trump Administration’s attempt to sabotage the USPS is an unlawful assault on our democracy,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “The County of Santa Clara will continue to make every effort to ensure that its constituents are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote in a safe and reliable manner.”
The brief also details the ways that many local governments rely on the mail to provide their residents essential social services, such as mailing prescriptions and providing rental assistance. Delays in receiving these services are particularly high stakes for vulnerable communities, given the health and economic crisis across the nation.
“As the brief makes clear, the USPS provides the backbone to so many crucial government services delivered by local and tribal governments,” said Public Rights Project’s Legal Director Jonathan Miller. “This isn’t just about the upcoming election. The USPS’s changes undercut the ability of those on the front lines of government committed to serving their communities. They delay needed medications, delivery of test results, and crucial notices. These politically motivated and totally unnecessary changes harm people’s lives.”
A diverse coalition of local and tribal jurisdictions joined the County of Santa Clara and Public Rights Project in filing the amicus brief. Signatories include: Columbus, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Cook County, IL; Alameda City, CA; Cincinnati, OH; Atlanta, GA; Dayton, OH; Austin, TX; East Palo Alto, CA; Berkeley, CA; Flint, MI; Boston, MA; Gary, IN; Cambridge, MA; Houston, TX; Chicago, IL; Harris County, TX; Los Angeles County, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; Los Angeles City, CA; Portland, OR; Madison, WI; Saint Paul, MN; Marin County, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Monterey County, CA; Seattle, WA; Oakland, CA; Somerville, MA; West Hollywood, CA; Yurok Tribe, CA.
The brief, which can be accessed at https://www.sccgov.org/sites/cco/overview/impact/Pages/
impact.aspx, was filed in support of motions for preliminary injunctions filed in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al. v. DeJoy et al., No. 2-20-cv-04096 (E.D. Pa.) and State of New York, et al. v. Trump, et al., No. 1-20-cv-02340 (D.D.C.).