Even though a federal judge on Saturday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering flyers with what the state says is confusing information on voting in Colorado, about 75% of those flyers have already been delivered, the Postal Service said in court filings Sunday and Monday.
Between about 1.8 and 2.4 million postcards were delivered to Colorado residents last week before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez issued a temporary restraining order at 6:55 p.m. Saturday stopping the mailings, according to the filings.
The judge’s order to stop delivery of the flyers was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who argued the mailers presented misleading information about voting in Colorado. The mailers say voters must request a mail-in ballot, but in Colorado, every registered voter receives a mail ballot and voters do not have to specifically request those ballots.
The Postal Service argues that the mailers, which are being distributed nationally, are not misleading because they tell readers to check their local jurisdictions for details on how to vote, and because they are intended to provide only general information that encourages voting, not to detail state laws. The Postal Service asked the judge to reconsider his restraining order on Sunday.
In court documents, the two sides argued about exactly how many of the flyers have already been distributed, with the Postal Service stating that 75% of voters in Colorado had already received the postcards before the judge’s order.
That 75% includes about 1.7 million postcards delivered from the Denver distribution center, another 171,000 delivered from Grand Junction, plus up to 612,000 flyers delivered from a distribution center in Albuquerque — although the Postal Service could not say exactly how many of those 612,000 post cards went to Colorado residents and how many went to New Mexico residents.
The about 1.7 million flyers sent from Denver represented about 75% of the flyers that distribution center received, according to court documents. Of the remaining 25% of flyers from the Denver distribution center, about 15% — or just over 333,000 postcards — were successfully pulled from the mail delivery process Saturday, according to motions filed on Sunday. The last 10% — about 222,000 postcards — were already in the process of being delivered, the filing said, and could not be easily separated from other mail.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in a court filing that the Postal Service is attempting to manually remove the remaining postcards from the mail processing system. On Sunday, nearly 30 USPS employees manually inspected millions of pieces of mail and removed the postcards over the course of about 20 hours, he said. Post offices in the state have also been advised of the judge’s order to stop delivery, and mail carriers have been instructed not to deliver the postcards to any customers.
Colorado state officials said in court filings that the Postal Service’s claim that 75% of the flyers have been delivered contradicts information postal officials previously gave to the state, as well as statements they made publicly.
Postal Service spokesman David Rupert told The Denver Post on Saturday that the flyers had gone out to a handful of communities, totaling in the thousands of households. He did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
State officials also argued that the Postal Service continued to deliver the flyers even after being warned on Thursday that state officials objected to the mailings and being told Friday that litigation was pending.
“The challenge of removing these Notices from the mail stream arises because of Defendants’ own conduct in continuing to place them in the mail stream after being put on notice, and being told on Friday that litigation was imminent,” the filing said.
Dunn said the Postal Service delivered postcards on Saturday despite being aware of the lawsuit because the mailers had been put into the mail processing system before 1 p.m. Friday. The flyers were pulled from the Denver distribution center when officials there learned of the lawsuit.
The next hearing in the case is set for Friday.