New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal expects to join a host of Democratic attorneys general in suing the United States Postal Service over cuts they say could jeopardize mail-in balloting during this fall's election, his office said Tuesday.
First announced in an afternoon tweet, Grewal later said in a statement that New Jersey is suing "to stop political interference in an apolitical institution."
"We must act quickly to protect the integrity of the upcoming election and halt the sudden and sweeping operational changes made by the U.S. Postal Service," Grewal said, adding that his office will file legal paperwork this week. "Voting by mail is safe, secure, and reliable. We intend to keep it that way."
It is unclear whether Grewal will file his own suit or join a consortium of other states in suing the Postal Service.
Even as New Jersey was vowing legal action, the service pulled back from proposed changes Tuesday, amid a storm of criticism that President Donald Trump was trying to undermine the fall vote.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, an ally of Trump and a major Republican donor, halted the removal of mailboxes and mail-sorting machines and said in a statement that retail hours at Post Offices would not change. He also said that no mail processing facilities would close.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said in the statement. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards.”
A Postal Service representative declined in an email to give further comment.
The agency has become an unlikely lightening rod in recent months as the Trump administration seeks to withhold billions of dollars Democrats say is necessary to help states protect the election and help workers process mail-in ballots.
Trump has said he opposes giving money to the Postal Service, the funding for which would be tacked on to a proposed coronavirus relief package.
"They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said last week on the Fox Business Network, adding, "If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it."
Whether or not the post office can handle the influx of ballots will be particularly important in New Jersey, which will hold the November election mostly by mail to keep the coronavirus from spreading, Gov. Phil Murphy said last week.
“Ensuring that every voter has the ability to securely cast their ballot while protecting public health is our paramount concern," Murphy said at a briefing in Trenton, where he said each of the Garden State’s 6.2 million registered voters will receive mail ballots.
DeJoy's reversal on the changes comes amid increased scrutiny from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over changes and service cuts at the agency. He is set to testify before the Senate on Friday and the House on Monday, where he will likely face pointed questions from lawmakers.
Trump has defended his administration's management of the agency and has said he opposes additional funding for USPS in spite of his acknowledgement that service delays threatened the November election. Instead, the president has argued the Postal Service has longstanding financial problems and needs to be reformed.
Democrats asked for $25 billion in recent coronavirus stimulus talks to help the USPS handle the uptick in mail-in ballots. But discussions over aid to help Americans struggling as a result of the virus imploded with no deal. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, however, indicated Republicans are open to passing a bill providing the $25 billion to the USPS.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Democratic-controlled House back early from its recess to vote on legislation Saturday preventing any further changes at the Postal Service.
A group of at least 20 Democratic attorneys general said Tuesday they would go ahead with legal challenges even after DeJoy said he would put the changes on hold. Pennsylvania Attorney General Joshua Shapiro told reporters on a Tuesday conference call, "I'll believe it when I see it."