American Oversight Files Lawsuit for Records of Political Interference at USPS Related to Covid-19 and Vote by Mail

On Thursday, American Oversight sued the Trump administration for failing to release documents with the potential to shed light on political interference at the U.S. Postal Service and with plans for vote by mail. 

USPS has faced increasing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and during a period of chaotic in-person elections in the United States. The service provides essential services for individuals nationwide — including delivery of medical supplies, absentee ballots for primary and general elections, and census materials — but the Trump administration threatened to veto the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act if it contained funding to ensure USPS’s stability.

Recent elections in Georgia and Wisconsin have been marked by long wait times and logistical failures that disproportionately impacted low-income voters and voters of color. The challenge of holding an in-person general election during a pandemic has led many states to consider extensive use of mail-in and absentee ballots. Despite there being no evidence to support his claims, President Donald Trump has attacked vote-by-mail systems as rife with fraud and has argued that “whoever cheated the most would win.” His statements were so inaccurate that for the first time, Twitter attached a fact-checking disclaimer to the president’s tweet.

As the United States will likely continue to face Covid-19 this fall, USPS will play an essential role in ensuring a free and fair November election. American Oversight is investigating whether the White House is using the coronavirus pandemic as pretext for interfering with USPS’s ability to conduct the essential business of facilitating an election or if the president’s long-standing criticisms of the post office have led to undue political influence in the administration of the CARES Act. 

“This president has told us repeatedly he is willing to cheat and steal in order to win an election,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Last year he tried to solicit foriegn interference from the Ukrainian government. There’s no reason to think he won’t try to affect the outcome again. It’s very likely that the post office will be essential election infrastructure come November and the public deserves complete confidence that this administration is allowing it to run independently.”

On May 12, American Oversight filed a suite of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with USPS seeking communications between the White House and the post office; final assessments or analyses regarding the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on USPS operations (including its ability to deliver mail-in ballots); directives from the White House regarding vote-by-mail; any terms and conditions proposed by or agreed upon by either the Treasury Department or USPS in order to secure emergency borrowing under the CARES Act; and other documents containing key terms related to Covid-19, the CARES Act, and vote-by-mail, including the communications of USPS leadership.

USPS has failed to release the requested documents as required by law, leading American Oversight to ask a federal court to compel the release of those records. The complaint is available here.

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