The U.S. Postal Service on Sunday unsuccessfully asked a federal judge in Colorado to reconsider an order barring it from continuing to distribute a mailer that the state says contains incorrect information about Colorado’s mail-in voting system.
The agency says it has already delivered 75% of the flyers it planned to distribute to Coloradans.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit Saturday against the Postal Service, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Denver postmaster to stop delivery of the flyers, which are being distributed nationally, to Colorado voters.
U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez issued a temporary restraining order late Saturday night stopping the mailings.
“The notice, if distributed, will sow confusion amongst voters by delivering a contradictory message,” Martinez wrote.
Martinez denied the Postal Service’s request to reconsider the temporary restraining order on Monday night.
The USPS mailer tells voters they must request a mail-in ballot for the November elections. In Colorado, every registered voter receives a mail ballot.
The mailer also recommends that voters mail back their ballots at least a week before the Nov. 3 Election Day. Griswold argued that could make people believe they must mail their ballot in, but voters in Colorado can mail their ballots, drop them off at drop boxes or voting service centers, or vote in person.
The USPS said it is sending the mailers nationally to promote the successful delivery of mail ballots. Worries about the coronavirus pandemic are likely to induce millions of U.S. voters to vote by mail for the first time.
The postal service asked Martinez on Sunday to reconsider, arguing that more than 200,000 postcards — or about 10% of the total printed — were in the process of being delivered and are already commingled with other mail. It said the judge’s order would be “extremely burdensome, requiring examination of mail by thousands of postal employees.”
“Many of the postcards might be extracted, but full compliance will require immediate instruction to more than a thousand carriers and contractors, on very short notice, through hundreds of post offices, all seeking to individually comply with the (temporary retraining order),” the Postal Service said in court filings. “Given the scale of this human project, there is a significant likelihood that despite these efforts, some postcards will be inadvertently delivered in violation of the TRO.”
Another 15% of the flyers have been segregated and won’t be sent out pending further direction from Martinez in the case.
The Postal Service, in a statement to The Colorado Sun on Sunda, said it thought Martinez acted too quickly to block the flyers from being sent.
“We believe the court acted prematurely because it did not hold a hearing, or even give the Postal Service an opportunity to respond to the states allegations,” said James Boxrud, a Postal Service spokesman. “We believe that presentation of the complete facts will demonstrate that the court’s decision is legally unfounded.
Colorado has more than 3.5 million active registered voters.
Election officials in Colorado said in court documents that they warned the Postal Service last week that they had concerns with incorrect information in the flyers.
“While it may be difficult for Defendants to stop mailing of the Notices at this stage, that inconvenience to Defendants does not excuse further irreparable injury to Coloradans’ constitutional rights,” Colorado fired back at the Postal Service’s request.
Griswold’s lawsuit contends the USPS mailers will “confuse Colorado voters, likely causing otherwise-eligible voters to wrongly believe that they may not participate in the upcoming election.”
“This attempt at voter suppression violates the United States Constitution and federal statutes and must be stopped immediately,” the lawsuit said.
Griswold said Colorado first learned Thursday about the mailers and expressed its concerns to the Postal Service. A Postal Service official told the state that most deliveries had been halted by Friday night, according to a state court filing on Sunday.
Griswold, a Democrat, has criticized Dejoy over Postal Service changes that slowed processing and delivery. She has lambasted as baseless President Donald Trump’s statements that mail-in voting is prone to fraud. Colorado also has joined a multi-state suit asking a federal judge to undo service cuts at the Postal Service, saying the integrity of the upcoming election is at stake.
Also named in Griswold’s lawsuit is the regional postmaster for Albuquerque, New Mexico, which services parts of far southwest Colorado.
Martinez set the next hearing in the case for Friday.
The Associated Press and Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.