(Reuters) - U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has halted a controversial cost-cutting program that slowed mail delivery ahead of the Nov. 3 elections, which could see a doubling in the number of ballots cast by mail because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Lawsuits filed to block the moves revealed details about the scale of the planned cuts:
* The Postal Service had planned to remove 671 mail sorting machines nationwide, including 502 delivery barcode sorting machines capable of processing 35,000 pieces of mail per hour, by Sept. 30.
* As of Aug. 16 it had already decommissioned 95% of its target, according to a lawsuit filed jointly by the Urban League, Common Cause and the League of Urban Voters.
* Overall DeJoy’s plans would have decommissioned 10% of the sorting machines in Postal Service’s inventory, the lawsuit said, citing Postal Service planning documents.
* Postal Service officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The following are state-by-state cuts highlighted in a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington, including in the election battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin:
* Michigan said the loss of machinery in a Pontiac facility has reduced processing capacity by 394,000 pieces of mail per hour.
* Wisconsin projected that seven of 36 mail sorting machines at a Milwaukee distribution center will be removed, and said staff shortages mean one worker rather than two now operates each.
* Washington state said three of five processing facilities are no longer processing outgoing mail, and the Postal Service is in the process of removing eight mail sorting machines.
* Colorado said six mail sorting machines are being removed.
* Connecticut expects 18 mail sorting machines will be removed by the election.
* Illinois said the Postal Service is in the process of removing 28 mail sorting machines, including 15% of all delivery bar code sorters.
* Maryland said the Postal Service removed six mail processing machines in early August.
* Minnesota said at least 20 mail sorting machines have been or are being decommissioned. It said 10 letter-sorting machines can process 5 million pieces of mail a day.
* Nevada said at least four mail sorting machines have been removed.
* New Mexico said four mail sorting machines are being removed.
Compiled by Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool
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