U.S. Postal Service, NAACP reach settlement on election mail

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and NAACP reached a settlement to resolve a 2020 lawsuit over election mail that the Justice Department said would ensure prioritizing delivering ballots in future elections.

USPS agreed for the 2022 mid-term congressional election to take the same extraordinary measures used to deliver ballots in the November 2020 election. The Postal Service also agreed for elections through 2028 to post guidance documents publicly reflecting its “good faith efforts to prioritize monitoring and timely delivery of Election Mail.”

USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall said USPS “agreed to continue to prioritize monitoring and timely delivery of Election Mail for future elections. This will include outreach and coordination with election officials and election stakeholders, including the NAACP.”

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “The right to vote and ability to access the ballot is the cornerstone of our democracy. The department is pleased we could facilitate a resolution that reflects the commitment of all of the parties to appropriately handling and prioritizing election mail.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “No one, including the USPS, should ever stand in the way of our constitutional rights. With the NAACP’s ability to now monitor the performance of the USPS during national elections, we will ensure that the right to vote is protected for of all citizens, including those often suppressed.”

The NAACP sued in the summer of 2020 to ensure timely delivery of mail-in ballots. Several courts ordered USPS to take extraordinary measures to ensure ballot deliveries, especially since a record number of Americans opted to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic,

USPS reiterated that it “continues to believe that none of the Election Mail lawsuits were justified by the facts or supported by the applicable law.”

USPS will provide weekly reports on service performance during the six weeks leading up to general elections.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter)

David Dinkins, New York’s first and only Black mayor, dies at 93

By Derek Francis

(Reuters) – David Dinkins, who served as New York City’s first and only African-American mayor during the 1990s, died on Monday at the age of 93, police said.

His death appeared to be of natural causes, Detective Adam Navarro of the city’s police department told Reuters.

Born in 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins attended Howard University and Brooklyn Law School.

He eventually came to Harlem, the historically Black neighborhood in upper Manhattan, where he rose in the ranks of local politics.

“I’m feeling something painful in my heart right now. I’m feeling like a loss and an emptiness because he’s gone,” an emotional New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday. “But I also really feel his guidance still, his presence. And we’re going to keep going, we’re going to continue his fight.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the many others paying tribute to Dinkins.

“For decades, Mayor Dinkins led with compassion and an unparalleled commitment to our communities,” James said in a statement. “New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and continue to be moved by his towering legacy.”

“The first and the only Black mayor of NYC, he cherished our “gorgeous mosaic” & served the city & state over a career spanning decades with the hope of unity and a deep kindness,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

In Harlem, Dinkins formed part of a group of Black power brokers, known as the “Gang of Four,” that included congressman Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson, the father of future New York Governor David Paterson.

Dinkins defeated the three-term incumbent Democrat Mayor Ed Koch in the primary and then Republican prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 mayoral race.

Giuliani, who would come back to defeat Dinkins four years later, was among the first to pay tribute.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recognized the former mayor’s achievements in a statement on Tuesday. “Winning his election against all odds, he showed us what was possible at a time when opportunities were limited.”

New York, during Dinkins’ term, was battling high crime, a fierce economic recession and the AIDS epidemic.

But it was his role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot that would most define his mayoralty.

The riot was sparked in the racially divided Brooklyn neighborhood by the acquittal of a young black man, Lemrick Nelson, in the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Jewish student.

Speaking in 2011, Dinkins remembered his handling of the riot as one of his chief regrets.

“The thing that hurt the most, I suppose, was to be accused by some of permitting – holding the police back – and permitting young blacks to attack Jews,” Dinkins said, according to the New York Times.

“And this was untrue, inaccurate and not so, and that’s kind of painful. But if I had it to do over again, I would have said maybe 24 hours earlier to the police, ‘What you’re doing isn’t working,’ which I finally said.”

(Reporting by Derek Francis; additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Berkrot)

Judge says U.S. postmaster must answer questions on delay in ballot sweep

By David Shepardson and Tom Hals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must answer questions about why the U.S. Postal Service failed to complete a court-ordered sweep for undelivered ballots in about a dozen states before a Tuesday afternoon deadline.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said at a hearing Wednesday that DeJoy “is either going to have to be deposed or appear before me and testify under oath about why some measures were not taken.”

The Postal Service, or USPS, disclosed on Wednesday it had completed the sweeps late on Tuesday and turned up just 13 ballots in Pennsylvania.

Sullivan had ordered the sweeps in response to lawsuits by groups including Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates.

The USPS told Sullivan it could not meet his 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) Tuesday deadline for completing the checks, saying it was not logistically possible.

“The court has been very clear that it expects total compliance,” Sullivan said on Wednesday. “I was just as shocked to hear that nothing else was done after the injunction was issued.”

A spokesman for DeJoy declined to comment on Sullivan’s remarks.

Sullivan separately ordered a new round of sweeps at postal processing centers in Texas ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for postal ballots that had been postmarked by Tuesday to be delivered to local officials in the state.

Postal Service data showed that as of Sunday about 300,000 ballots that were received for mail processing did not receive scans confirming their delivery to election authorities.

In a court filing Wednesday, the Postal Service said “the lack of a destination or finalization scan does not mean that the ballots were not delivered.”

Sullivan was hearing testimony on the delivery of ballots from a senior official.

Sullivan’s order covered processing centers in central Pennsylvania, northern New England, greater South Carolina, south Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin and parts of Illinois, Arizona, Alabama and Wyoming, as well as the cities of Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia and Detroit.

A senior postal inspection official said Wednesday officials in Pennsylvania had found 10 ballots in Lancaster and three delayed ballots in Johnstown during the sweeps and they were referred to management for delivery.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Giles Elgood)

Louisville officer calls for peace after being shot during protests

(Reuters) – One of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers who was shot last week during protests following the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case on Wednesday called for a de-escalation of tensions between demonstrators and police.

“Hate and violence progresses nothing. It’s only when we can come together in mutual respect and love that we can communicate in an effective way and we can make real change,” Major Aubrey Gregory told a briefing on Wednesday.

Gregory and Officer Robinson Desroches were shot last Wednesday amid protests that erupted following news that a grand jury would not bring murder charges against three police officers involved in the March 13 killing of Taylor during a botched raid at her home.

Larynzo Johnson, 26, is the only suspect in the shootings of the two police officers last week. He was charged with two counts of assault and multiple counts of wanton endangerment. He pleaded not guilty.

Gregory’s calls for calm come as pressure builds on Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, over his handling of the case. Cameron, who presented evidence to the grand jury, said in a Louisville television interview that he did not recommend any charges against the two police officers who shot Taylor, saying the jurors needed to make that decision on their own.

A recording of the grand jury proceedings was scheduled to be made public on Wednesday, but Cameron asked a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge for another week to redact private information, according to a court filing released on Wednesday.

Gregory, who said he had been playing a leading role working with protest organizers to keep demonstrations peaceful, added he was concerned about violence.

“The willingness to profess openly in public the desire to harm, kill, hurt the police and their families has really ratcheted up,” he said.

“We support the demonstrations we do not support violence in any shape, form or fashion,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP on Wednesday.

“We hope that the situation here will come to a peaceful conclusion. And we also hope that justice will come regarding the murder of Breonna Taylor.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

NAACP calls for boycott of North Carolina over voting, bathroom laws

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, speaks at the 46th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California, U.S. on February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Friday said it would not hold its convention in North Carolina and urged other organizations to boycott the state in protest of laws adopted by the Republican-led legislature.

The civil rights groups described the move as the first step in an economic boycott that could be expanded in North Carolina and replicated in other states that enact laws limiting voting rights and protections for gay and transgender people.

NAACP leaders asked artists, religious groups, educators and sports leagues to join the effort.

“If we demonstrate the power of the purse, then we will demonstrate the power of democracy,” the NAACP’s president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, told reporters in Raleigh.

Brooks did not provide a timeline for a wider boycott, but the organization said an internal task force would explore it.

The NAACP said it was calling for the boycott in response to North Carolina laws such as House Bill 2, which bars transgender people from using government-operated bathrooms that match their gender identity and bans cities from setting a minimum wage above the state level.

The organization said state lawmakers need to create fair election districts that do not dilute the black vote and repeal a new measure seen as weakening the executive powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

“What has happened in North Carolina makes this state one of the battlegrounds over the soul of America,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter.

Conventions, corporations and sports leagues including the National Basketball Association already relocated events or halted new jobs planned for North Carolina after lawmakers passed H.B. 2 last March, costing the state more than $560 million, according to the online magazine Facing South.

So far, however, efforts to repeal the measure have failed.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said Cooper should take a stance against the NAACP’s boycott.

“It’s time for him to show some leadership as North Carolina’s governor, condemn William Barber’s attempt to inflict economic harm on our citizens, and work toward a reasonable compromise that keeps men out of women’s bathrooms,” Berger said in a statement.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie Adler)