Postal Service Warns 46 States and D.C. of Likely Mail-In Ballot Delays

Postal workers in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2013 (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The U.S. Postal Service warned 46 states and D.C. that with an expected avalanche of mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, it can’t guarantee that all ballots will be delivered in time to be counted in the November election.

The Postal Service warned 40 states — including battleground states Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that their longstanding deadlines for ballots were “incongruous” with the service’s mail delivery timelines, according to July letters from USPS to election officials obtained by the Washington Post

In Pennsylvania, which will allow voters to request a mail ballot until Oct. 27, the Postal Service has said voters would need to have mailed their completed ballot by that same date in order to arrive in time to be counted. 

USPS cautioned six more states and D.C. that ballots could be delayed for a small group of voters. 

“The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” Martha Johnson, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said in a statement to the Post.

Some states are now scrambling to change their deadlines.

While Pennsylvania asked the Supreme Court to allow mail ballots received up to three days after the Nov. 3 election to be counted, with proof that they were mailed before that date, similar rules in New York resulted in numerous ballots not being counted in a congressional primary in June.

Only weeks before the first absentee ballots are set to be mailed, many states have not or cannot adjust their deadlines. Mail-in voting is currently the subject of more than 60 lawsuits in at least two dozen states. 

Facing dire financial conditions, the service has recently undergone a series of cost-cutting measures that have delayed mail delivery by as much as a week in some places. A new decision to decommission 10 percent of the service’s sorting machines has raised concerns further slowdowns lie ahead. 

While some have accused new postmaster Louis DeJoy, an ally of the president, of slowing down mail services to suppress voting, the Post reported that the Postal Service had planned to send the ballot warnings to states before DeJoy’s appointment earlier this summer. 

The USPS told the Post the machine reductions are not out of the ordinary and are done to accommodate the mix of packages and letters in the mail stream. 

In a letter to USPS workers Thursday, DeJoy said that temporary delivery slowdowns were “unintended consequences” of his efficiency efforts but that the “discipline” he was bringing to the agency “will increase our performance for the election and upcoming peak season and maintain the high level of public trust we have earned for dedication and commitment to our customers throughout our history.”

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