More than a half-dozen states are mulling lawsuits against the Trump administration in an attempt to stop it from slowing mail delivery before Election Day.
The attorneys general of Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington are participating in discussions over how to challenge the administration in court amid concerns that a slowdown would disenfranchise voters in an election that is expected to see a surge in voting by mail as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Washington Post.
"Washington State is expected to be the first to file this week, and Pennsylvania and New York are likely to follow," The New York Times reported.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, is also weighing action, a spokesperson told The Post.
The report comes as Democrats increasingly sound the alarm over changes made by recently-installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top Trump and Republican Party donor, which have led to a slowdown of mail delivery in an effort ostensibly aimed at cutting costs at the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
The USPS told 46 states last week that it was unable to guarantee that all ballots sent by the election would arrive in time to be counted. The USPS has removed mail sorting equipment from post offices, removed mail boxes in certain states and is considering service cuts. Democrats have also expressed concerns over the delivery of medications to seniors and government aid to Americans impacted by the economic crisis.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Sunday announced that she would call the lower chamber back early from its summer break in order to vote on legislation to block changes at the USPS. Any bill would also need to be approved by the Republican-led Senate and signed by President Donald Trump to take effect. House Democrats are also planning emergency hearings on service delays.
"He is undermining the safest voting method during a pandemic and forcing people to cast a ballot in person," Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told The Post. "It is reprehensible."
The attorneys general discussing a legal challenge are expected to announce the lawsuits early this week.
"This is not just terrible policy, but it may be illegal under federal law and other state laws, as well," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a fellow Democrat, told The Post. "A lot of work is being done literally as we speak over the weekend and at nights to try to figure out what Trump and DeJoy are doing, whether they have already violated or are likely to violate any laws and how we can take swift action to try to stop this assault on our democracy."
Though most of the states considering challenges to the administration's moves are Democratic, Massachusetts has a Republican governor. North Carolina and Pennsylvania both backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
"We are exploring all available options, but we also want to make clear that people should continue to make use of mail options and not be deterred by the president's effort to undermine the election," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, told the outlet.
Even though Republican officials and the Trump campaign have urged voters to cast ballots by mail, the president has repeatedly sought to sow doubt about voting by mail as he trails in the polls. Trump has repeatedly — and falsely — claimed that the practice of voting by mail is rife with fraud, even though many states have had all-mail elections or no-excuse absentee voting for years in which fraud has been virtually nonexistent.
However, Trump has himself praised Florida's mail voting system, which allows anyone to vote by mail for any reason. Mail-in ballots for the president and the first lady were reportedly delivered to their Mar-a-Lago address in the state last week.
Trump also declared last week that he would block funding to emergency funds to aid the USPS.
"They need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions of ballots," the president told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. "If they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting. Because they're not equipped."
Administration officials attempted to walk that claim back over the weekend. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told The Post that Trump was open to more funding if Democrats agreed to his terms for the next phase of coronavirus relief.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also told CNN that Trump was open to funding for the USPS — and vowed that the agency would stop removing mail sorting machines until the election. The USPS also said it would stop removing mail boxes in certain states.
"The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their vote in a legitimate way," Meadows said, "whether it's the post office or anything else."
But Meadows also doubled down on Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud after CNN host Jake Tapper noted there was no evidence of widespread fraud.
"There's no evidence that there's not," Meadows claimed.
In fact, there is "evidence that there's not." With more than 250 million ballots cast by mail over the past two decades, there have been a recorded 143 criminal prosecutions for fraud, or a rate of about 0.00006%.
Congressional Democrats have launched multiple investigations into service changes at the USPS, and several Republicans have joined the calls for the USPS to reverse its operational changes. Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., called for a reversal of policies enacted since DeJoy took over, while Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., wrote a letter to DeJoy urging him to do the same.
"The reason the president doesn't want people to vote by mail is that polls show that people who want to vote by mail tend to vote for Vice President Biden," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said over the weekend. "People who tend to want to vote in-person tend to want to vote for President Trump, so this is a political calculation."
Lauren Groh-Wargo, the head of the voting rights group Fair Fight, echoed Romney's criticism.
"Donald Trump is scared," she told The Post. "He's a coward. He doesn't think he can win an election when everybody is allowed to vote. Our vote is our power."