In the wake of continued controversy over the operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service, Attorney General Phil Weiser said on Tuesday that states in a federal lawsuit would stay "committed" to ensuring that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy does not delay or disrupt mail delivery.
"While the Postmaster General has said he is suspending operational initiatives he implemented illegally at the USPS, we are going to monitor his actions and make sure that he lives up to his word. A mere statement isn’t legally binding and nothing in the DeJoy statement says that he is reversing the actions already taken," Weiser said.
Weiser, Gov. Jared Polis, and Secretary of State Jena Griswold had announced earlier that Colorado joined a multi-state federal lawsuit claiming that the drastic changes at USPS threaten critical mail delivery and could undermine the national election in November.
DeJoy said in a statement after the announcement that "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."
Colorado joins Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin in that lawsuit, to be filed in federal court in Washington state.
The Postal Service cuts — including the removal of five Delivery Bar Code Sorters and at least one Flat Sequencing System from a major Denver distribution center — threaten the timely delivery of mail to Coloradans who rely on the Postal Service for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots, according to a statement from Weiser's office.
Other factors that could cause delay include not only the increased load on the remaining sorters, but also new policies such as reduced staff overtime and an earlier deadline for end-of-day mail processing.
DeJoy did not say what is to become of the 671 mail sorting machines and hundreds of mail collection boxes believed to have been already removed by USPS in recent weeks. He is scheduled to testify before both houses of Congress next week.
Weiser's statement noted that the Postal Service had recently notified states it would end its longstanding practice of processing ballots as first-class mail regardless of what type of postage is used. States and counties that use marketing or bulk-rate postage for their ballots could experience delays that would prevent some ballots from being counted.
In Colorado, ballots are sent to voters at least three weeks before the election. Griswold has said that they advise voters not to return ballots by mail beginning a week before the election and to drop them off at secure ballot collection boxes.
Weiser said these delays are likely to affect Colorado’s all-mail elections and the constitutional right to vote for the state’s 3.5 million active registered voters, as well as delay mail-order prescription drugs to nearly 50,000 Colorado veterans.
“Coloradans depend on the U.S. Postal Service to conduct business, pay bills, order prescriptions, and to vote by mail. The sweeping changes that the Postmaster General implemented at the Postal Service are illegal and threaten to undermine our state’s independent authority to conduct elections," Weiser said Tuesday. "We are bringing this lawsuit to fight for every citizen’s constitutional right to vote and to protect our State’s ability to manage our reliable, safe, and easy-to-use vote at home election system."
The lawsuit claims DeJoy "acted outside of his authority and did not follow the proper procedures required by federal to implement these drastic changes. Under federal law, changes at the U.S. Postal Service that cause a nationwide impact in mail service must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The commission then evaluates the proposal through a procedure that includes public notice and comment," according to the statement.
DeJoy is a former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and a donor to President Trump's election campaign, with more than $1.2 million in contributions and millions more to other Republican organizations and candidates, according to NPR.