Recently, the Postal Service produced mailers that they would deliver to some 161 million addresses across the country that contained guidelines for voting by mail in the upcoming election — but for some states, the mailers contain blatant misinformation. The mailer, which is in the form of a postcard, calls on recipients to request their mail-in ballot at least 15 days before Election Day — but in nine states, voters don’t need to request mail-in ballots at all, because authorities will send them out to all registered voters. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, whose state is one of those sending mail-in ballots to all voters, has won a temporary restraining order blocking the Postal Service from continuing to send the misinformation-riddled mailers to Colorado voters.
BREAKING: Temporary restraining order granted. The @USPS must stop sending misinformation to Colorado voters.
— Jena Griswold (@JenaGriswold) September 13, 2020
In his ruling granting Griswold’s request for the temporary restraining order, federal Judge William J. Martínez said that the mailer “likely interferes with Colorado citizens’ fundamental right to vote.” In Grisworld’s original lawsuit, which includes the controversial Trump-allied Postmaster General Louis DeJoy among the defendants, she excoriates the Postal Service over the mailer. Discussing it, the lawsuit states:
‘These false statements will disenfranchise Colorado voters, including its uniform military and overseas voters; mislead them about Colorado’s election procedures; infringe Colorado’s constitutional rights to conduct its elections; and interfere with the secretary of state’s ability to oversee Colorado elections.’
Besides the issue with suggesting Colorado voters need to request a mail-in ballot although they do not, the mailer’s guideline also contradicts guidance from Griswold’s office on how long before Election Day that voters need to send their ballots in. Griswold observed:
‘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.’
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.
— Jena Griswold (@JenaGriswold) September 12, 2020
If voters were to receive the disputed mailer but weren’t aware that Colorado authorities would be sending them a mail-in ballot automatically, then maybe they would be discouraged from voting if they happened to miss the mailer’s timeframe, which, again, is not actually relevant in Colorado, eight other states, or the District of Columbia. According to The New York Times, after Griswold “announced the lawsuit, secretaries of state from five other states contacted her office to request copies so they could explore the possibility of filing their own suits.” Maryland’s top election official, Linda Lamone, said that her “colleagues around the country are infuriated, as we all should be.”
The mailer seemingly represents unnecessary confusion amidst an election cycle that has already been marred by President Donald Trump’s own consistent attempts to sow doubts about the electoral process.
As Griswold herself noted to the Times, authorities at the Postal Service “know that they’re about to send misinformation to millions of voters in the 2020 election, where we’re getting a constant flow of misinformation and undermining of the elections from the White House.” Trump has claimed, for instance, that mail-in ballots somehow pose some systemic threat to election integrity, but this claim is false — five of those nine states with mail-in ballot mailing plans already conducted elections almost entirely via the mail before the Coronavirus ever came along. They have experience.