Originally in News & Observer
August 18, 2020

Following days of news about sweeping changes to the financially strained U.S. Postal Service ahead of the general election, Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit Friday to block the changes.

North Carolina joined five other states and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit.

The Democrat’s remarks came days after the USPS sent a letter to North Carolinasaying some ballots requested close to the deadline may not be returned by mail in time for the vote to count.

The Postal Service wrote that it “strongly recommends” that voters request their ballots 15 days before Election Day “at a minimum.” It also recommends voters “mail their completed ballots at least one week before the state’s due date.”

The agency, which is expecting an uptick in absentee mail-in ballots due to coronavirus concerns, sent similar letters to 46 other states, according to The Washington Post.

LAWSUIT FILED

Stein said in a news release that the lawsuit “seeks to immediately reverse the agency’s actions and guarantee safeguards and standards for election mail.”

“A substantial number of attorneys general are very concerned about the undermining of the Postal Service going into the elections,” Stein said Sunday. “We want to make sure that the Postal Service has the ability to effectively respond to the substantial uptick (of mail-in ballots).”

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a Postal Service bill prohibiting any changes to “operations or level of service” Saturday. The bill will include $25 billion of funding for the agency. The House also included funding for the Postal Service in its latest coronavirus package, which Trump opposed.

With building political pressure as states announced plans to file suit, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was recently tapped by Trump to lead the agency, also announced Tuesday that he was suspending some initiatives until after the election.

“There are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” DeJoy said in a release.

But Stein’s office said in a news release Friday about his lawsuit that DeJoy “did not clarify which initiatives he was referring to. He also failed to clarify whether the Postal Service would now guarantee delivery of ballots.”

DeJoy, who has donated $1.2 million to Trump since 2016, is scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Aug. 24, where he will testify about recent changes to the Postal Service. He originally was going to testify before the committee in September, but Democrats pushed for an earlier appearance in response to recent public outcry.

‘A WORD OF CONFIDENCE’

Stein, who is running against Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill for a second term as attorney general, also wants voters to know what they can do to ensure their vote will count.

If voters request an absentee ballot between now and Sept. 4 — when the state begins sending ballots — after receiving it “you can put your ballot back in the mail and have near 100% certainty that it will get there well in advance and your vote will be counted,” Stein said.

“We are the state that sends out our mail-in ballots first in the country,” Stein said.

But Stein also told The News & Observer on Sunday that he wants to give voters “a word of confidence,” saying there is plenty of time for voters to make certain their ballots are counted.