Originally on WECT

August 18, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Attorney General Josh Stein said his office is joining a coalition of states that will file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service over operational changes to mail delivery that were causing widespread delays and threatening mail-in voting for the upcoming November election.

The multistate lawsuit, which will be filed later this week, seeks to immediately reverse the USPS’ actions and “guarantee safeguards and standards for election mail.”

Shortly before Stein’s announcement, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would “suspend” his initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”

The back and forth comes as North Carolina’s absentee ballot requests have skyrocketed — with roughly ten times the number of ballots requested so far compared to the same point in 2016.

New Hanover County has already had 11,632 requests, Brunswick has had 3,380, Pender has had 1,035, Columbus has had 501, and Bladen has had 326.

Experts estimate up to 40% of the vote could be done by mail in North Carolina.

Though he said he was pleased to see DeJoy’s announcement, Stein said he intends to move forward with the lawsuit to make sure the postmaster general sticks to his word.

“We want to make sure that these promises are real and not just words on a memo,” Stein said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “We want to make sure they undo the damage that they’ve already done. So we’re going to pursue this matter if they will give us the assurances we need, then we don’t have to file the action. But if they don’t, I will do what’s necessary to protect the Postal Service.”

The lawsuit will assert that the Postal Service unlawfully implemented widespread changes to mail service nationwide. Stein said the coalition of attorneys general will also assert that the Postal Service acted outside of its authority to implement the changes to the postal system and did not follow the proper procedures required by federal law.

Some of those changes, as Stein mentioned, have already gone into effect, and DeJoy’s memo does not indicate they will be reversed.

A handful of machines and boxes have already been removed in North Carolina, and Stein says he wants to make sure those are addressed so the election runs smoothly.

However, he said the lawsuit is about protecting more than just the electoral process.

“The post office is one of the most important institutions in our country, it’s how rural folks stay connected. It’s how business grows, checks from the Social Security, the VA sends out medicine, and how in a time of a pandemic, many of us are going to vote. I as attorney general, I’m going to fight to ensure that the Postal Service remains strong and vital, and serves the people of North Carolina.”