DENVER – Colorado officials were again forced Thursday to respond to dubious claims by President Trump about mail-in ballots, ballot drop boxes and funding for the U.S. Postal Service, with Secretary of State Jena Griswold saying the president was committing voter suppression.
President Trump said in an appearance on Fox Business Thursday morning that he did not want to provide the U.S. Postal Service with any more money, as has been sought by Democrats in the latest coronavirus funding negotiations, saying that he believed that it would only help in processing more mail-in ballots for the November election, which he believes will hurt his chances of re-election.
Democrats had sought to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Post Service and another $3.5 billion to expand mail-in voting for November, which the president is blocking.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in the call-in interview. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Griswold, who has been outspoken in the push by the president and some other Republicans to demonize mail ballot voting, said that Trump was only withholding the USPS funding to prevent more people from voting on mailed ballots this year.
“This is voter suppression. It’s voter suppression to undermine the safest method to vote during a pandemic, and force Americans to risk their lives to vote,” Griswold said in a statement. “Colorado’s election model is the nation’s gold standard, and we use both mail ballots and ballot drop boxes. Our use of drop boxes is even more crucial as the U.S. Postal Service is under attack.”
When Trump made unproven claims about mail ballots before Colorado’s June primary, Griswold said that she was on alert and ready to push back “against any attempt to use the pandemic to suppress voter turnout.”
Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., who introduced the bill containing the $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service in march, which was included in the House-passed Heroes Act, this week sent a letter with dozens of other members of Congress to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy saying they were concerned about cuts under his watch – which could have effects on the election but also for rural communities.
“It is vital that the U.S. Postal Service not reduce mail delivery times, which could harm rural communities, seniors, small businesses, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages,” the members wrote.
Following the president’s comments Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., along with the full Senate Democratic Caucus, also wrote to DeJoy raising concerns about funding, services and the election.
“We have received reports that in the last several weeks, the Postal Service sent letters to state election officials that indicate that the Postal Service will not automatically treat all election mail as First Class,” the senators wrote. “If any changes are made to longstanding practices of moving election mail just months ahead of the 2020 general election, it will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions.”
Griswold said during a press availability Thursday that she had requested a meeting with LeJoy, saying she had concerns that he and the president were possibly trying to undermine the USPS for personal or political gain.
Colorado voters are well-versed in the mail ballot system and utilized it again during the June primary to produce record turnout. More than 1.5 million Coloradans vast votes – 99.3% on the mail ballots returned either via mail or drop box.
Griswold said she thought Colorado would be in a better position than most other states for the election, as Colorado sends out ballots more than three weeks before election day and asks people to stop mailing them and to use drop boxes eight days out.
She said that about 75% of voters typically use drop boxes instead of mailing their ballots.
Griswold said her office added 91 drop boxes statewide last year and announce more funding for an additional 100 drop boxes this year – which county clerks can still apply for. She said it was “reprehensible” that Trump and others were demonizing them, including the lawsuits some have filed over states adding them for November.
Griswold said in June that during the 2018 midterm election, elections officials referred 0.0027% of all ballots cast to either the attorney general or district attorneys for further investigation, a number which she said was “relatively low.”