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A mail worker on Aug. 25 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked U.S. Postal Service changes that 14 states had alleged interfered with their authority to administer elections, AP reports.

Driving the news: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in August that he would halt USPS operational changes until after the 2020 election to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail," following widespread delivery delays and backlogs.

  • Yes, but: Some changes to the mail service still "remained in place" after DeJoy's announcement, per AP, and states including Wisconsin, Nevada and Michigan went to court to block them.

The big picture: States are expected to handle a massive number of mail-in ballots in the 2020 election. The USPS alerted 46 states and Washington, D.C., at the end of July that it cannot ensure ballots sent by mail in the general election will arrive in time to be counted.

  • President Trump has long claimed, without evidence, that "universal" mail-in ballots will lead to a "rigged" election and massive voter fraud. He vowed in August to block stimulus funding for mail-in voting and the USPS.

What they're saying: "The states have demonstrated the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service,” Judge Stanley Bastian said Thursday, per AP.

  • Bastian also noted that the changes to the Postal Service initiated by DeJoy, a former Trump donor who was appointed in May, would create “a substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised.”

The other side: “While we are exploring our legal options, there should be no doubt that the Postal Service is ready and committed to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives," USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer said in an emailed statement.

  • “Any suggestion that there is a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service is completely and utterly without merit," Lee Moak, a Democratic appointee to the USPS board of governors and election mail committee chair said in a statement.

Go deeper

Special report on virus-era voting: Prepare for unprecedented threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With rare, if not unprecedented, agreement, President Trump, Joe Biden, intelligence officials and Big Tech CEOs are all warning of threats to accurate and trusted vote counts before, on and after election day. 

American elections face a triple threat in 2020: 

  • Foreign governmentsespecially Russia, China and Iran — are actively spreading misinformation via social platforms.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why we struggle with the election expectations game

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden appears close to an electoral win that will likely be narrower than election forecasts projected, and the initial sense that he underperformed expectations, which were themselves off base, could color his election and perhaps his presidency.

The big picture: We can't help but judge events based on whether they exceed or fall short of our expectations for them — but those expectations often aren't grounded in reality.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.