State officials reach settlement with Postal Service over misleading election mailers

By: - September 18, 2020 2:25 pm

Secretary of State Jena Griswold said during a press conference on Aug. 17, 2020, that Colorado set a record for the highest-ever turnout for a non-presidential primary in June, with over 99% of votes cast using mail-in ballots. (Moe Clark/ Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Friday announced that state officials had reached a settlement with the U.S. Postal Service over its distribution of postcards containing misleading information on vote-by-mail procedures last week.

“I am pleased with the settlement we reached today with the U.S. Postal Service,” Griswold said in a statement. “The terms of the settlement mandate that all reasonable effort be taken to remove all undelivered misleading mailers from the mail stream, and it requires collaboration between the Colorado Department of State and the USPS to make sure all future Postal Service communication includes correct information.”

Griswold, represented by attorneys from the office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, sued the Postal Service in federal court late last week following the distribution of an informational mailer containing erroneous instructions to Colorado voters on how to receive and cast their ballot by mail.

Responding to the lawsuit on Sept. 13, Postal Service officials estimated that about 75% of the postcards in question had already been delivered. It subsequently directed employees across the state to take steps to halt the delivery of the remaining mailers, though officials said such efforts would be “extraordinarily difficult” and it remains unclear how many were removed from processing.

The controversy was just the latest in a series of objections raised by Democrats over the Trump administration’s management of the Postal Service and mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 election. Earlier this week, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking changes to Postal Service operations that had resulted in delivery delays following a multi-state lawsuit joined by Weiser.

Under the terms of the agreement on the misleading mailers, the Postal Service agreed to allow Colorado officials to review any further communications relating to mail-in voting “before public release” between now and December. While both parties have agreed to a certain level of cooperation, the settlement notes that the Postal Service retains the right to make a final decision on its content — and that Colorado retains the right to go to court again if its objections are ignored.

“This process is designed to enable input from the Colorado Secretary of State and Attorney General, before a media item is released publicly, on whether the proposed media item may create voter confusion in Colorado,” the settlement states. “The USPS retains full editorial control over the item, and has full authority not to incorporate suggested input or changes from the Colorado Secretary of State or Attorney General or designee, but commits to working in good faith to advance the mutual goals of the parties as described herein.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.