Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson have discussed what might be done to protect Washington state’s vote-by-mail system if the Trump administration degrades the U.S. Postal Service before the November election.
During a press briefing about the state’s response to COVID-19 Thursday, Inslee said that recent comments and potential actions by President Trump could undermine vote-by-mail here and across the nation.
“I did talk with Attorney General Bob Ferguson today, who shares my view that the president’s actions are harmful and undemocratic,” Inslee said. “He is now considering our rights in Washington state.”
Earlier Thursday during an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump said he is against providing election aid to states and is also opposed to a bailout for the Postal Service, which needs assistance to meet the large volume of ballots predicted to be cast by mail this year because of the pandemic.
In a call to Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show, Trump said if there is no deal, there is no money for the Postal Service.
“That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting,” he said. “They just can’t have it.”
Congressional Democrats are seeking $3.6 billion to help states with the election and the Postal Service has requested $25 billion in emergency funds. Trump told reporters later Thursday that he wouldn’t veto a bill with funding for the Postal Service.
“This is one of the most grievous assaults on democracy I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I hope and believe it will offend both Republicans and Democrats and Independents and whatever other party is wronged because it has been such a success in Washington state,” Inslee said.
Voting by mail was one of a handful of topics the governor discussed during his Thursday news conference.
Inslee had just returned from Okanogan County, where he was meeting with people in the agriculture industry to try and figure out how to halt the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the sprawling county in North Central Washington.
To try and get a handle on the situation, Inslee is sending a National Guard unit to run mobile testing sites in Okanogan County.
Earlier this week, he announced a $40 million relief fund for people whose immigration status doesn’t allow them to access federal stimulus programs. Inslee also spun up a $3-million fund for food-production workers who contract COVID-19 and need to stay home. It can be used by undocumented immigrants. Money from the CARES Act is being used for both funds.
When asked if the state’s COVID-19 response is being affected by the problems the state has had reporting negative tests results and the positivity rate on its dashboard. The state’s health officer, Kathy Lofy, who was at the press briefing, said there are enough other data points to understand on how the response is going.
“Every data source on its own has its limitations, so we never depend on one. You really need to look at all of them together to see that big picture,” she said. “We feel like we have plenty of data right now to really understand where we are in the pandemic.”