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Politics and Government

Federal court orders Postal Service to stop sending Coloradans flyer containing incorrect mail-in voting information

The order came after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, earlier in the day filed a lawsuit to halt the flyers from being delivered

Colorado voters cast their primary election ballots in downtown Denver on June 30, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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A federal judge on Saturday night ordered the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering a flyer that contains incorrect information about mail-in voting in Colorado.

The order came after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, earlier in the day filed a lawsuit to stop the flyers from being delivered. Griswold says the postcard presents false information in the four bullet points it includes, namely by telling Colorado voters they must request a mail-in ballot. 

That’s not the case. Under Colorado’s universal mail-in ballot system, every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail. There is no need to request a ballot.

“These false statements will confuse Colorado voters, likely causing otherwise-eligible voters to wrongly believe that they may not participate in the upcoming election,” the lawsuit says. “This attempt at voter suppression violates the United States Constitution and federal statutes and must be stopped immediately.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, asks that the Postal Service be barred from continuing to deliver the postcards to Colorado voters. It lists Louis DeJoy, the controversial Postmaster General appointed by President Donald Trump, and the regional postmasters for Denver and Albuquerque, as defendants. (Mail delivered to the Four Corners region of Colorado is routed through Albuquerque.)

Judge William J. Martinez issued a temporary restraining order that bars the Postal Service from sending the flyers to Colorado voters through at least Sept. 22.

“The court further finds that the balance of harms and public interest weigh heavily in favor of temporarily restraining defendants from mailing the notice to Colorado residents,” Martinez wrote. “The court recognizes that removing the notice from circulation may impose limited burdens on defendants. Such burdens, however, pale in comparison to the potential disenfranchisement of registered voters within Colorado and are insufficient to tilt the balance of the equities in the defendants’ favor.”

Martinez added: “The notice, if distributed, will sow confusion amongst voters by delivering a contradictory message.”

The postcard, have already been received by some Colorado voters, including ones in Larimer and Denver counties. 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Sept. 12, 2020, sued Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the postmasters in Denver and Albuquerque to keep this flyer from being delivered to customers in Colorado because it contains misinformation about voting. She alleges in her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver that the flyer was sent to attempt to confuse and disenfranchise voters because it says people must request a mail-in ballot. In fact, all voters in Colorado receive their ballots in the mail. (Provided photos)

In addition to the guidance that Colorado voters must request a mail-in ballot, Griswold’s office also takes issue with a recommendation that voters mail back their ballots at least a week before Election Day. That’s guidance the Secretary of State’s Office normally gives, but Griswold fears it may lead people to believe they must mail their ballot back in.

“Colorado voters do not need to mail their ballot to vote at all. Colorado voters may elect to instead vote in-person, return their voted ballots to voter service polling centers staffed by local election officials, or conveniently located, secure drop -boxes,” the lawsuit says. 

Martinez said in his decision that the order blocking the flyers from being delivered is necessary because “even if a subsequent corrective communication is sent to Colorado voters, voters will be left to decide which of the contradictory communications to believe.”

MORE: Read the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by Griswold is the latest friction between Colorado election officials and the Trump administration over mail-in ballots.

Trump has baselessly said that mail-in voting in rife with fraud, and anxieties across the nation about potential tampering with voting peaked when DeJoy began implementing changes at the Postal Service that slowed down mail processing and delivery. 

Those changes have stopped, but Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is still suing the agency to reverse any actions taken that may slow down mail service. 

Weiser, a Democrat, is representing Griswold in the lawsuit over the informational postcard. 

Griswold has become a national defender of vote-by-mail in recent weeks, appearing in national news articles and on television to defend the practice. She recently threatened to refer Trump for prosecution after he appeared to encourage voters in North Carolina to vote twice. 

The Postal Service defended the postcard Saturday in a statement to The Colorado Sun, saying that it was intended to clear up any confusion around mail-in voting that people may have. 

“Our mail-piece provides general, all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state election rules,” James Boxrud, a Postal Service spokesman, said in a written statement.  “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.”

Boxrud added that 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.”

A U.S. Postal Service truck. (Unsplash)

The statement from the agency did not say if it notified Colorado elections officials before mailing out the postcard or say why the mailer contains incorrect information.

Ballots will start being mailed to Coloradans on Oct. 9.

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