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Colorado attorney general in discussions with other states about legal action to protect U.S. Postal Service

The talks come as fears over the Trump administration’s degradation of the Postal Service ahead of the November election have reached a fever pitch

A U.S. Postal Service truck. (Unsplash)
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Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says he is in discussions with colleagues in other states about whether to take legal action to preserve the U.S. Postal Service — and, more broadly, people’s right to vote — ahead of the November election.

The talks come as national fears over the Trump administration’s degradation of the Postal Service have reached a fever pitch. President Donald Trump has expressed debunked concerns about the security of mail-in voting and says he opposes providing badly needed funding for the agency.

“We are indeed working with colleagues in different states, evaluating the best legal options,” Weiser said, speaking to reporters at the Denver County Clerk and Recorder’s Office near ballot-counting machines.

He declined to provide details on which attorneys general he’s talking to. 

Weiser hinted that there may be a states-rights argument to be made if he and his colleagues determine the Trump administration’s actions are hindering states’ ability to carry out elections.

“It is, indeed, the constitutional obligation of the states to manage elections. And efforts by the federal government to undermine our constitutional duty, and the individual rights of people to vote, is something we take very seriously. We’re going to explore all avenues to protect our Constitution, to protect the right to vote and to assert the rights of our states. That’s what we do as attorneys general.”

Weiser added: “If there’s a Postal Service undermining of state authority to manage elections … that absolutely is going to be of the gravest concern for us and we are going to be looking at how to protect our states and our voters.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks to reporters at a news conference Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, on mail-in voting. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The Washington Post over the weekend reported that attorneys general from at least six states are weighing whether to file a lawsuit or lawsuits against the Trump administration to block it from reducing mail service between now and the election.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has called efforts to weaken the Postal Service an attempt at voter suppression. But at the same time she is not encouraging Coloradans to avoid voting by mail this year.

“Well, you know, we’re a couple months from the election at this point,” Griswold said. “And, in general, Coloradans really use the drop boxes.”

About 75% of Coloradans return their ballots at drop boxes instead of mailing them back to elections officials, Griswold says.

Weiser was joined with other Democratic elected leaders in Colorado, including Griswold, Gov. Jared Polis, Denver County Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, on Monday to defend the efficacy of Colorado’s vote-by-mail system. The system has been in place for a number of years and is celebrated by both political parties.

Bennet blasted Trump’s attacks on voting by mail. 

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet speaks to reporters at a news conference Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, on mail-in voting. To his left are Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. To his right is Denver County Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

“He’s put our political future ahead of our democracy,” he said. “In Colorado, we have to hold up our model as an example of how to vote safely for the rest of the country.”

Griswold accused Trump of being “more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing the virus.”

While the slate of Democrats at Monday’s event expressed concern about mail-in voting nationally, they said they are thus far confident in the Postal Service’s ability to carry out the election in Colorado.

Trump on Monday doubled down on casting doubt around mail-in voting.

“This universal mail-in is a very dangerous thing,” he said at the White House. “It’s fraught with fraud and every other thing that can happen, and we have to be very, very careful.”

Still, Trump said he has encouraged the Postmaster General to “speed up the mail, not slow the mail.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is facing a difficult reelection bid this year, said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told him Monday morning that the Postal Service has $15 billion of cash on hand, suggesting funding is not an issue.

Gardner said he’s working on legislation to provide more funding to the USPS.

As for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor who was appointed to the job by Trump and has been blamed for much of the Postal Service’s problems, Gardner said it’s imperative the pace of mail doesn’t slow down.

 “I think we have to understand what the postmaster is trying to do. Is it overtime? Is that what he’s trying to do?” Gardner said Monday, speaking to reporters at an event in Aurora. “The post office is operating at levels that are basically holiday levels because of the crush of ecommerce that they have. They need to make sure that we don’t have any kind of slowdown around elections or mail, that’s the bottom line.”

Ballots for the 2020 general election will be mailed out to voters in Colorado starting on Oct. 9.

Colorado Sun staff writer John Frank contributed to this report.