Fighting for the Right to Vote by Mail

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Fighting to uphold the Constitutional right to vote, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged the Board of Supervisors to oppose the Trump Administration’s cost-cutting efforts at the United States Postal Service, calling it a brazen attack on Americans’ ability to vote by mail.

Acting on his motion, Board Chair Pro Tem Hilda Solis issued an Executive Order authorizing County Counsel to join litigation as amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court). The Board is expected to ratify the Executive Order when it reconvenes on Sept. 1.

“We’ve fought too hard to have our voices heard on Election Day, and we cannot allow the Postmaster General to suppress our right to vote by mail and undermine a pillar of our democracy,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is imperative that we take a stand so voters can cast their ballots without having to go to a polling station during a pandemic.”

US Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, expressed support for the motion during a Facebook Live conversation with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas on leadership and community organizing. She is among the leading Congressional representatives calling for the resignation of the US Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, and for the Trump Administration to cease any “operational initiatives” that will have an impact on election mail.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has fought for voting rights for decades. He founded the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation (AAVREP) in 2002, the largest organized effort to register African American and urban voters in California. This after a decade of service as the Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose national organization was founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

More recently, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has worked with Susan Burton, founder of the nonprofit A New Way of Life, to support L.A. Free the Vote, aimed at increasing the civic engagement of people in the justice system.

“As a formerly incarcerated person, I know that my vote matters. I depend on the Post Office to deliver my vote to the County Registrar Recorder’s Office,” Burton said. “We are appalled at the Trump administration’s attempt to disrupt the United States Postal Service during such a critical time.” A New Way of Life helps formerly incarcerated women successfully reenter society by connecting them to supportive services. It works to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people, including their right to vote.

The USPS has always played a central role in the functioning of American democracy but has become even more critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people rely on mail not only to cast ballots but also to receive life-saving medications and other supplies during a time when it is incredibly risky to gather in one place, stand in line, and touch the same election machinery. 

Despite that, Postmaster General DeJoy recently, and just months before the November 3rdGeneral Election, decided to implement changes at the USPS without first seeking authority from the Postal Commission, and despite acknowledging that the service reductions would result in “mail left behind.” DeJoy, a Republican Party and Trump campaign donor, later canceled some of the changes after a public outcry. The USPS, however, has already removed many mailboxes from service across several states.

The Attorneys General of Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin have all filed lawsuits opposing the changes. The Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, with California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York, are also expected to challenge the changes in court.

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