USPS Postcard on Vote-by-Mail Brings Criticism, Lawsuit

[Image courtesy of wikipedia]

A new U.S. Postal Service postcard seeking to alert voters about vote-by-mail is drawing criticism – and in at least one state, a lawsuit – from election officials who says it is misleading and fails to capture state-by-state variation in voting rules.

In Colorado, a federal judge has issued a restraining order to stop the mailing, the Denver Post reports:

A federal judge Saturday night temporarily barred the U.S. Postal Service from sending an election mailer that state Attorney General Phil Weiser and Colorado’s top election official argued contained incorrect information for Colorado voters.

“The Court recognizes that removing the (mailer) from circulation may impose limited burdens on Defendants. Such burdens, however, pale in comparison to the potential disenfranchisement of registered voters within Colorado,” U.S. District Judge William Martinez wrote in the ruling.

The mailer, already received by some Colorado voters, “provides false or misleading information about the manner of Colorado’s elections by stating that voters should ‘[r]equest [their] mail-in ballot (often called ‘absentee’ ballot) at least 15 days before Election Day’ and ‘mail [their] ballot at least 7 days before Election Day,” the ruling said.

In fact, Colorado voters receive a ballot automatically and they do not need to mail it back, Voters can instead use a drop-box or vote in person.

In California, CapRadio reports that election officials worry that people will be confused about the need to “request” a ballot in a state where ballots will be mailed automatically:

Local election officials around the state answered questions Friday from voters puzzled about the advice from USPS.

One county released a media advisory trying to stem the confusion:

“Sacramento County Voter Registration & Elections would like to remind residents that in California, you do not need to request an absentee ballot – all active and registered voters will be mailed a ballot beginning October 5th,” Janna Haynes, Sacramento County elections spokesperson, said in a written statement. 

Later on Friday, a spokesperson for Yolo County’s elections office said it also planned to advise voters they do not need to request a mail-in ballot.

A staffer at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters told PolitiFact California that her office had also received questions about the postcard on Friday morning. She said there was no need to request a mail-in ballot, but she encouraged all voters to verify their registration. 

California Chief Deputy Secretary of State James Schwab also weighed in on the confusion on twitter, writing “Appreciate the effort @USPS, but this could be confusing for California.”

And in West Virginia, both the the Secretary of State and his opponent/predecessor told WOWK  that 15 days before Election Day is too long to wait to request a ballot:

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and his challenger Natalie Tennant agree it’s not the best information.

“Don’t wait until the last minute, even though West Virginia law allows you to,” said Tennant.

“It is true but it’s not necessarily the best information, there’s no reason to wait 15 days before,” said Warner.

The postcard is just the latest example of how the USPS – long seen as an ally of election officials nationwide – is increasingly becoming yet another obstacle as an already difficult 2020 election approaches. With Election Day just 50 days away, here’s hoping that state and local election officials can continue to get the word out to voters about the best way to get and return mail ballots, if that’s how they choose to vote. Stay tuned …

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