DENVER — A judge granted a temporary restraining order Saturday evening after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service over a USPS mailing to Colorado voters that includes what the lawsuit states are "false statements that will confuse Colorado voters."
According to the secretary of state's office and the attorney general's office, the postcard gives incorrect details about how voting works in Colorado.
The restraining order will temporarily bar USPS from mailing additional cards to Colorado voters, though, in a court filing, the USPS estimated it had already delivered the mailing to 75% of Colorado addresses.
Also according to the filing, 30 USPS employees spent 20 hours on Sunday to try to pull remaining postcards from the mail stream, to abide by the temporary restraining order. The USPS also informed the court that individual carriers were told to "extract all postcards from the mail and to not deliver these postcards to USPS customers."
"The last thing we want is misinformation on the election process," said Griswold in an interview with 9NEWS. "We asked them to delay or just not send them in Colorado, and they refused. What these lawsuits are about is asking a judge to tell the Postal Service to not send this postcard which contains misinformation on election to Colorado voters."
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser shared a photo of the postcard, which shows a "checklist to prepare" for the upcoming election. The list includes:
- Starting early
- Checking in with local election officials to confirm rules and dates
- Requesting a mail-in ballot at least 15 days before Election Day
- Following instructions on the ballot, including adding postage if needed
- Returning the ballot at least seven days before Election Day
The lawsuit states that the postcard, which some Colorado voters might receive by Saturday, is incorrect in several ways:
- Colorado voters don't need to request a ballot because all registered voters receive one by mail.
- Voters who don't have a ballot can vote in person.
- Voters don't have to mail back their ballots and can return ballots to polling centers or drop-off boxes.
"As the Chief Election Official of the state of Colorado, it’s my job to try to stop misinformation and any unnecessary election confusion," Griswold said in a statement. "The importance of this election, combined with the fact it is being held amidst a national pandemic, further heightens the need to provide correct voting information to Coloradans."
USPS spokesperson James Boxrud said in a statement they could not respond to pending litigation, but said the postcards are part of a broad voter campaign regarding mail and ballots.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Denver, Colorado Regional Postmaster Samarn Reed, and Albuquerque, New Mexico Regional Postmaster Chris Yazzie.
Below is the response from the USPS:
"Our mail-piece provides general, all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state election rules. The mail-piece – which has already been delivered to most households and will reach every American residential mailing and P.O. Box addresses in the coming week – contains a single set of simple recommendations for voters throughout the nation, regardless of where they live and where they vote. At the same time, we are aware that each state has its own specific rules, deadlines and requirements, and the mail-piece acknowledges that fact.
"The main message of the mail-piece is that voters should plan ahead, educate themselves about voting options available in their jurisdiction, and, if they choose to vote by mail, to give themselves enough time to receive, complete and return their ballot. We specifically encourage voters to visit their local election board website and provide a link for this purpose (usps.com/votinginfo).
"The Postal Service recognizes that not every state requires a voter to request a ballot in order to obtain one by mail for the November election. The Postal Service’s guidance remains that individuals need to understand their state’s rules and deadlines, and to plan ahead."
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Weiser said that his office worked with Griswold to file the lawsuit late on Friday night into Saturday morning.
Griswold also said secretaries of state asked DeJoy for the chance to review the postcard for accuracy, but he refused.
She said she's worried confusing voters might undermine confidence in the election and suppress votes.
"This may have started off as a well-intentioned effort by @USPS, but their refusal to listen to election experts combined with the recent postal slowdown in some parts of the country is beyond suspect," another tweet reads.
USPS spokesperson David Rupert responded with the following statement Friday night before the lawsuit was filed:
"In August, the Postal Service began to roll out an omni-channel public information campaign that will continue through Election Day to educate the public on the Postal Service’s role in the mail-in ballot process.
The non-partisan campaign neither encourages nor discourages mail-in voting; rather, it is designed to reach and inform all voters about the importance of planning ahead if they plan to vote by mail.
The campaign includes print, TV and radio ads, direct mail to residential customers, retail signage in Post Office lobbies, social media, and online resources, including the recently launched Election Mail website on usps.com.
This includes a postcard which encourages voters who choose to use the mail to visit our educational website."
According to Weiser, Colorado's vote-at-home system is a national model.
"Our system makes voting easy, safe, secure and reliable," Weiser said. "In this case, we are standing up for Colorado's constitutional right to manage our elections."
"What worries me is that Colorado voters need to get a clear message as to how our system works, and when the federal government interferes and offers an incorrect message, that goes against the way things actually work. People do get confused."
There is a scheduled court hearing on Friday. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office said one of the remedies could include asking the USPS to mail a corrected postcard specific to Colorado.
This is the second lawsuit filed by Colorado against the USPS this year. The first lawsuit was filed to address "the illegal effort to slow mail delivery," according to Weiser.
The restraining order will remain in effect through Sept. 22, unless it is extended.
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