During a campaign event outside a Seattle post office Monday afternoon, state and local elected officials addressed growing nationwide concerns about mail delays and promised voters they would do “everything in [their] power” to ensure each Washington state ballot gets counted.
State Rep. Gael Tarleton, U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Denny Heck and King County Executive Dow Constantine said while Washingtonians have been using a vote-by-mail system successfully for years, officials have been hearing from distressed constituents about the possibility of disenfranchisement in November because of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivery delays.
The USPS is under severe financial strain, and newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has cut overtime pay and other expenses that have ensured mail is delivered on time. The agency has said that it can’t guarantee all mail-in ballots would arrive in time nationwide, even if they’re mailed by each state’s deadlines. While U.S. lawmakers have proposed emergency funding to help the Postal Service process this year’s expected surge of mail-in ballots, President Donald Trump has refused to approve the package.
“The states must act, starting now, to protect every vote and every voter,” Tarleton said outside the Wallingford post office Monday. “We need Congress and state and local elected officials all in. With less than eight weeks until ballots come out, we have work to do.”
“There is only one response to this attack on our elections and our voting rights: a partnership of elected officials and the people whose rights are at risk … Our voters must know we are standing up and fighting back.”
Tarleton, a Seattle Democrat and former Port of Seattle commissioner, will face Republican incumbent Kim Wyman in the secretary of state race in the general election. Wyman last week assured voters they shouldn’t be too concerned about the mail delays.
“Washington voters should know that sending ballot material to millions of voters this fall is a routine operation of the U.S. Postal Service,” Wyman wrote in a statement on Friday.
“Washington election officials have been working with the U.S. Postal Service for more than 20 years, and we believe we will receive the same level of quality service. Though it is imperative the agency maintain its functionality and efficiency, this volume of work is by no means unusual, and is an operation I am confident the U.S. Postal Service is sufficiently prepared to fulfill.”
“You are not strong enough to pull this off,” Heck said in a message directed at the president. “We will win this battle … If there are officeholders who are not standing up and speaking out, then they are complicit. Indeed, they’re accomplices in this crime, and they should be held to account as well.”
Heck, a Democrat running to be Washington’s next lieutenant governor, was asked by a reporter if he was referring to Wyman.
“Has she spoken up?” Heck said. “Then she’s complicit.”
Voters can also take action to ensure all votes are counted, Jayapal said Monday, urging people to vote early, support efforts to obtain more ballot boxes and alert election officials if they see “blatant attempts to undermine the U.S. Postal Service.”
“Donald Trump and the Republicans and his postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, have launched a coordinated campaign to take away the ability for the Postal Service to deliver ballots, literally working to commit election theft,” Jayapal said. “That’s what they are setting us up for. Vote theft. There is no other word for it.”
Gov. Jay Inslee added in a statement Monday that Washingtonians “cannot take this for granted in light of the Trump administration’s efforts to suppress the votes of the American people.”
“The president should be doing less to suppress our votes, and more to suppress the COVID-19 virus,” Inslee said in the statement. “I will do everything in my power to help ensure all Washingtonians have access to the full range of services offered by the USPS — especially their constitutional right to participate in state, local and federal elections.”
Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he was not asking for mail delays, even though he continued to criticize mail-in voting and to make baseless claims that universal mail-in ballots would be “a disaster,” according to The Associated Press.
Postal Service funding cuts and mail delays have pushed people across the country to voice concerns, with demonstrators protesting outside DeJoy’s North Carolina home and his Washington, D.C, apartment over the weekend, according to the Washington Post and Associated Press.
“This is an important moment for our country, with dangerous attacks on the U.S. Postal Service,” Jayapal said. “People depend on the Postal Service across the country and for our democracy, and we are here to say we will do everything in our power to fight back against all of these attacks.”