Resource: Washington v. Trump

By: Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

September 18, 2020

Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

Plaintiffs are WA, CO, CT, IL, MD, MI, MN, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, WI, and VA suing Trump, DeJoy and the USPS. The complaint begins by laying out the historical importance of the post office and by describing the statutory requirements that the post office must satisfy in order to implement certain changes to mail service. In particular, USPS is required to seek an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission which also requires a notice and comment period on changes per the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. Under that act, which is enforceable through a writ of mandamus, individuals are given a right to sue USPS if it is failing to meet its statutory requirements. The states assert sovereign, proprietary and quasi-sovereign interests which have been harmed by six types of changes to mail service instituted by USPS. These changes are 1) eliminating overtime (2) instructing carriers to leave mail behind (3) decommissioning sorting machines (4) removing mailboxes (5) reducing operating hours (6) changing how election mail is classified and charged. The states assert a sovereign interest in conducting elections as they see fit, a proprietary interest in the mail system as extensive mail users and a further interest in protecting their citizens' fundamental right to vote. The states also detail claims that the Trump administration has attempted to sow mistrust in vote by mail including by alleging high risks of voter fraud which are contrary to studies conducted on the subject. Each state presents a summary of its vote by mail system and history and specific instances of how the above changes have negatively impact that system. The states present 8 claims. (1) Mandamus: seeking a writ of mandamus to require defendants to seek an advisory opinion as required by statute (2) Ultra Vires agency action: if no mandamus, the changes enacted by USPS should be deemed unlawful and enjoined since USPS has no power to make them without satisfying the statutory process, (3) a violation of the Time Place and Manner clause as USPS is interfering in states' ability to determine the manner of their elections and because only Congress can modify state choices under the clause (4) violation of Article II Section 1 of US Con by interfering with method of appointing presidential electors which the states have selected (5) violation of the states retained powers under the 10th Amendment (6) violation of citizens' constitutional right to vote by creating an undue burden (7) violation of the 5th amendment EP and DP clauses by failing to prevent the disparate treatment of voters based on, among other characteristics, location (8) violation of the Rehabilitation Act by discriminating against voters with disabilities by making it more difficult to vote by mail.