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

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Sept 21 (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)

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