As the U.S. Postal Service sounds the alarm about its ability to handle increased mail-in voting this November, Connecticut's Attorney General and the Secretary of the State are considering their legal options with less than three months until the election.
There is growing concern about recent policy changes and delays within the USPS as millions of Americans will be trying to vote by mail. Connecticut AG William Tong said he and other state attorneys general are 'mobilizing' to make sure the postal service will be equipped to help ensure that every vote is counted.
“We’re developing and analyzing any and every possible legal claim and we’re preparing to take every necessary legal action to protect our right to vote and to protect this election and to make sure that it is fair, transparent, open and accurate,” Tong said. He said the details about how those next potential legal moves take shape will come in the next few days.
Meanwhile, Tong’s office said it recently received more than 150 postal service-related complaints.
“I’m getting real-time complaints coming into the Attorney General’s office about Connecticut residents who received their absentee ballots late, who are receiving their medicine late, who are receiving bills and invoices and payments for their businesses late, receiving information about the reopening of school late or delayed,” Tong said.
“State AGs across the country, including me, are mobilizing now and we’re going to be a firewall to protect this election and our democracy,” Tong said.
NBC News confirmed that the USPS had been removing mailboxes and sorting machines from facilities around the country. The White House later said that the practice will no longer occur, at least not until after the election.
Tong’s office said it was made aware of claims from the Connecticut State American Postal Workers Union of postal equipment being altered or removed in New Haven County. Union members said processing machines had been removed, employee overtime had been cut back and trucks had been sent out without waiting for hand-sorted mail.
“People should vote, vote confidently, know that your vote is going to be counted,” Tong said.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has that same confidence, too. However, Merrill told NBC Connecticut that she is having discussions with Governor Ned Lamont about being able to mail out absentee ballots before Oct. 2, which is the earliest mailing date under current rules.
"I'm very concerned about it. I'm shocked by all of this,” Merrill said of the USPS issues. “I can't tell you how much this has kind of taken us kind of by surprise. I never imagined we would have to deal with this on top of COVID, on top of storms, on top of our efforts to put in place a brand-new process for this volume of absentee ballots,” she said.
“We have extensive checks and balances in place,” said Merrill. “We’ve been doing absentee ballots for a hundred years in this state. We just haven’t done that many of them. It’s the volume that’s changed; nothing else.”
Both Merrill and Tong said the key for the 2020 election is for voters to plan now for how, when and where they plan to cast ballots in November.
“People need to prepare and make a plan to vote as soon as possible, as soon as they're able,” Tong said. “If you’re going to vote by absentee, get that application in as soon as possible. If you’re going to vote in person, make sure you know when you’re going to vote, where you’re going to vote and vote early that day. Don’t wait until the end of the day. People need to make a plan. They need to treat this as a big priority in their lives like I know that it is,” he said.
NBC Connecticut reached out to the USPS for comment and to see if there are any operational changes in Connecticut but they have not yet responded.