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U.S. voting officials scramble in wake of 'misleading' USPS mailer

World Sep 14, 2020 10:35PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: An individual mails letters through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in Philadelphia 2/2

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A voter-outreach effort by the U.S. Postal Service drew a growing backlash on Monday as election officials in several states warned voters that the embattled agency was providing inaccurate information about how to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

The statements by officials in West Virginia, Maryland, Utah and Washington state come after a federal judge in Colorado on Saturday ordered the Postal Service to cease delivery of postcards he said contained "false or misleading information" about how to cast ballots by mail.

The Postal Service says it is trying to comply with the order, even though most of those postcards in Colorado have already been delivered. It has asked U.S. Judge William Martinez to reverse his decision.

"The intention of the mailer was to send a single set of recommendations that provided general guidance allowing voters who choose mail-in voting to do so successfully, regardless of where they live and where they vote," spokeswoman Martha Johnson said.

The dispute comes after cost-saving measures ordered by new Postmaster Louis DeJoy led to widespread mail delays in August, causing some to question whether their ballots will be handled properly. DeJoy suspended those changes in the face of widespread public outrage.

The postcards in question, mailed nationwide last week, tell voters to request mail ballots at least 15 days before the election.

However, several states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and California - mail ballots automatically to all registered voters.

Election officials in Washington state and Utah told voters they do not need to request a ballot.

In Colorado, the secretary of state's office plans automated phone calls to explain that the Postal Service mailer contains inaccurate information, spokesman Steve Hurlbert said.

Officials in Maryland and West Virginia also said the Postal Service's recommended deadlines conflicted with their state laws.

California's secretary of state, Alex Padilla, told Reuters he was "deeply concerned" about the potential for voter confusion.

"State and local elections officials have had to spend a significant amount of time correcting election misinformation and disinformation," Padilla said. "This USPS postcard, without input from elections officials, does not help."

(This story corrects title of Alex Padilla from attorney general to secretary of state in the 11th paragraph.)

U.S. voting officials scramble in wake of 'misleading' USPS mailer

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