NC Attorney General Joins Lawsuit To Ensure Postal Service 'Fully Capable' Of Handling Election
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says he will still join other attorneys general in a lawsuit that challenges operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service even though those changes have been postponed until after the election.
Some of those changes were being carried out, including the removal of some mailboxes and sorting machines in post offices, and limiting overtime. Stein tells WFAE he was pleased to hear that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is delaying his planned operational changes but that he still has concerns.
Josh Stein: The changes should never happen 11 weeks going into an election, but it's not enough that he's stopping certain changes. We have to make sure that any damage that has been done gets fixed.
Gwendolyn Glenn: And how do you plan to go about trying to make sure that those get fixed? Because we here in Charlotte, we heard about seven sorting machines being removed from a post office near the airport yesterday.
Stein: We've heard about sorting machines being removed from Charlotte and from Fayetteville. Look, his words yesterday are simply on a piece of paper. These need to be binding commitments and an assurance that he will undo the damage already done.
We are going to court to get that assurance. If he will provide it to us in some binding form beforehand, then that would be far and away the best outcome. But if he refuses, then, like I said, we'll go to court to try to get this thing fixed.
Glenn: Have you changed what you're asking for in the lawsuit since he made the announcement?
Stein: No. We're of course reviewing the lawsuit to make sure that there's nothing inconsistent, but the relief is the same: It's fix the Postal Service. Look, the post office, it's a connection for rural North Carolina. Small business depends on it, you know.
Eighty percent of all veteran medication is shipped through the Postal Service, and we're in the middle of a pandemic. We expect to have an unprecedented number of people voting by mail this year. We have to have the post office work.
Glenn: How widespread are the issues of mailboxes being removed, of sorting machines being taken out, of, overtime being limited?
Stein: Something like 10% of the sorting machines have been removed in recent months is my understanding. We've seen a prohibition that postal carriers cannot take extra trips to deliver their mail. They have to actually leave their route before they've completed it by a certain time.
There's been a ban or reduction in overtime. All of this has had the consequence of dramatically slowing the delivery of mail. There was actually a memo which they were told to leave the mail on the floor. That's just unacceptable.
Glenn: Is there anything that the ... (state) Board of Elections can do in terms of if some of these ballots are not getting there on time, according to state law?
Stein: Potentially there is. North Carolina law is better than a lot of states. It says that your ballot has to be postmarked by Election Day but received three days after the Election Day. Well, we got a letter from the Postal Service itself in which they said, "We can't guarantee that," and so I think that the state board is considering what are any options they may have to extend that deadline beyond three days to some longer period of time.
But the real thing, for the listeners, is to just know, look: You can vote, and your vote will be counted because you can vote early starting Sept. 4. North Carolina is the first state in the country to mail out mail-in ballots, so if you requested it from the state board tonight, on Sept. 4, it will be mailed to you.
You could have your ballot, then, in the first or second week of September if you know who you're going to vote for and then feel relief and certainty that it will get there in ample, ample time. You can actually hand deliver an absentee ballot to the county board of elections. You can vote -- early vote -- 17 days, including two weekends this year. And if you're a traditionalist, go on Election Day.
Glenn: Do you know when the lawsuit will actually be filed? And will it be one of these things you're going to try to expedite so you get a decision far out in advance of Election Day?
Stein: We are working furiously on finalizing the complaint, and it should be ready very shortly. And yes, we're talking about 11 weeks from now until the election's over, so this isn't a lawsuit that we're going to dally with. We're going to push hard to make sure that the Postal Service is fully capable of responding to the election.
Glenn: Well, thank you for talking with us today.
Stein: Gwendolyn, thanks so much for your interest.
Glenn: North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
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