RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) said he’s discussing legal options with other states’ attorneys general regarding cuts at the United States Postal Service, as the U.S. House prepares to come back into session this week for a vote on the issue.
Stein told CBS 17 it’s still not clear specifically what action he’ll take, and that it could be impacted by what Congress does.
“The President actually said the words he wanted to deny funding to the postal service because he wanted to make it harder for people to vote absentee,” said Stein. “The President continues to make unfounded, and without any evidence, claims of massive voter fraud through mail when this has been a traditional practice.”
North Carolina, a key swing state, is already seeing a surge in demand from people who want to vote by mail this year. Requests are nine times higher than what they were at this point in 2016, according to data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections and analyzed by Old North State Politics. Ballots will be mailed to voters beginning on Sept. 4.
President Donald Trump spoke about the issue Monday, saying he supports absentee-by-mail systems such as those in North Carolina and Florida but opposes states seeking to conduct elections entirely by mail.
“Absentee ballots are great. They work. They’ve been proven. They’re good, like in Florida. But, this universal mail-in is a very dangerous thing,” he said.
The President has not provided evidence to show that all-mail elections lead to widespread fraud, as he’s claimed.
North Carolina allows people to vote absentee-by-mail without having to give a reason but does not conduct all-mail elections. The state gained national attention in 2018 after a case of election fraud in the state’s 9th Congressional District, in which Republican campaign operatives were accused of an illegal absentee ballot harvesting operation that ultimately led to a new election in that district.
Since then, the state has made various reforms to the absentee ballot system. In this year’s election a voter is required to have someone sign off as a witness that they indeed are the person filling out their ballot. Additionally, only a voter or that voter’s close relative or guardian is allowed to handle their ballot, including turning that ballot back in at a county board of elections office or to an early voting site during the early voting period.
Last week, CBS 17 reported on a letter North Carolina state officials received from the U.S. Postal Service saying there’s a “significant risk” that people could request absentee-by-mail ballots in the timeline outlined under state law “and yet not be returned in time to be counted.”
The letter came amid a series of changes being made at the postal service under the direction of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor who lives in Greensboro. Those changes include cutting overtime and restricting mail delivery trips among other measures. The agency has faced financial issues for years, which DeJoy has said he’s trying to address.
However, Democrats have accused DeJoy and Trump of seeking to undermine the postal service in order to reduce mail-in voting.
“It’s clear (DeJoy is) the one-man wrecking crew here. And so, the notices that have gone out to the states are a way of maybe covering the situation so they can say later, well you had no excuse,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC 4th), who called on DeJoy to resign. “The whole thing just stinks to high heaven. And, Trump has made it pretty clear what he’s up to. He has said at various points, voting by mail is good for Democrats.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) has called legislators back to Washington in the middle of the recess to take up legislation to address the situation at the postal service. Price said the bill likely will aim to block any further changes from occurring between now and the election and could include additional funding for the agency.
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC 3rd) said he opposes more funding for USPS beyond what was approved in the CARES Act.
“The postal office has been in disarray for many, many years. And, the President has actually appointed somebody to do something about it. And, it’s just very interesting. You know, the American people put him in office to do something about the swamp in DC and the poor management of the country. And, when they’re actually doing it, the Democrats don’t seem to like it,” Murphy said. “The burden of responsibility is really on the state. Get the ballots out earlier than what you’re doing so that they can come back in time and be counted.”
In North Carolina, voters have their absentee-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day (Nov. 3) and delivered to their county election office by Nov. 6. The postal service is urging people to mail in their ballots no later than Oct. 30.
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