usps controversy
November 5, 2020

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was furious Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service had defied his order to sweep postal processing facilities in 15 states Tuesday to find missing absentee ballots and deliver them on time. The USPS had said in a court document that 300,000 ballots had been scanned into facilities but not scanned out, suggesting they were misplaced.

Instead of complying with Sullivan's order, the USPS kept to its own schedule, raising concerns that tens of thousands of ballots would not be delivered in time to be counted. "It just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth for the clock to run out — game's over — and then to find out there was no compliance with a very important court order," Sullivan said. He suggested he would demand a deposition from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Notably, there were 81,000 untraced ballots spread across postal districts in key swing states with a combined 151 electoral votes, The Washington Post reports, though, according to its analysis, the missing ballots "are unlikely to affect the outcome of the presidential race." In many cases, USPS said, the ballots had been hand-sorted and delivered without an exit scan. The USPS did not provide data to indicate how prevalent that practice has been, though it did disclose that 7 percent of ballots in its sorting facilities Tuesday were not delivered in time to be counted.

"Even in a worst-case scenario where all potentially misplaced ballots in a state are permanently lost, those ballots amount to just a fraction of both current two-party vote margins and estimates of the number of outstanding ballots yet to be tallied," the Post reports. In Georgia, for instance, the maximum 6,624 missing votes represent just 8 percent of the margin between President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

In other states, though, the number of missing ballots is larger — more than 11,000 in Pennsylvania and 16,000 in Florida — and the untraced absentee votes in Arizona make up 24 percent of the outstanding margin between Biden and Trump, the Post reports. Also, its analysis that "misplaced mail ballots will not be a significant factor in final vote tallies" has the caveat that it might be a factor if "the final presidential vote margins shrink to low three- or four-digit numbers in the coming days." In some states, like Arizona and Georgia that's a distinct possibility. Peter Weber

September 21, 2020

New data obtained by The Guardian provides a more specific look at how the changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy affected the U.S. Postal Service's on-time first-class mail delivery rate after he took over the role in June.

In what North Carolina A&T history professor and former postal worker Philip Rubio described as a "remarkable graphic illustration," The Guardian shows that rates plummeted not long after DeJoy stepped in. The USPS was delivering first-class mail on time about 93 percent of the time during most of the first half of 2020, just shy of its 95 percent goal, and was averaging nearly 91 percent at the moment of leadership transition. But by August the national rate had dipped to about 81.5 percent, and was even lower in some postal districts, reaching as far south as 63.6 percent in northern Ohio and just over 61 percent in Detroit, although it's worth pointing out that Detroit had also fallen well below the national average for multiple weeks earlier in 2020, jumping back up shortly before DeJoy arrived. As The Guardian notes, those districts are both in key swing states, which will likely raise some eyebrows, given that DeJoy has already had critics accuse him of trying to slow deliveries with an increase in mail-in ballots expected for the general election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeJoy denied those allegations during congressional testimony and explained that any slowdowns that occurred were the result of a bumpy transition. DeJoy went on to pause the reforms he put in place until after the election, but The Guardian's analysis shows that delivery speed is still lagging in several districts. View the trends of delivery rates in postal districts across the country at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

August 22, 2020

The House on Saturday passed legislation that would provide $25 billion to the United States Postal Service, while also banning any operational changes to the agency — like the removal of mail-sorting machines and collection boxes — and reversing already-enacted measures.

The 257-150 vote was mostly along party lines. Democrats introduced and supported the bill, driven by fears that the Trump administration is deliberately trying to slow mail delivery ahead of the November election given President Trump's continued opposition to a coronavirus pandemic-related push for universal mail-in voting. Republicans, on the other hand, accused their colleagues of manufacturing "baseless conspiracy theories" and insisted the post office can handle election just fine. Some GOP members did cross the aisle, however.

It's unlikely the bill will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, however, and Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell wasted little time expressing opposition to the legislation, tweeting his disapproval just minutes after the vote. Tim O'Donnell

August 18, 2020

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced he's suspending operational changes he was instituting for the United States Postal Service.

The decision comes after public outcry and allegations that the Trump administration was attempting to slow mail deliveries in response to what's expected to be a larger-than-usual volume of mail-in ballots for November's election because of the coronavirus pandemic. DeJoy had indeed made changes to the agency's operations, including cutting post office hours and overtime, as well as the removal of mail processing and collection boxes (which the post office says was a routine process.) But he said he now plans to push those alterations until after the election "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail." Additionally, he said, starting Oct. 1 "we will engage standby resources in all areas" to "satisfy any unforeseen demand."

At first glance it seems DeJoy's statement would ease Democrats' concerns, but not all of his critics are satisfied. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said DeJoy "can say whatever he wants," but he has already "lost the trust of the American people." Plus, many Democrats want the agency's former operations restored permanently, not just until November.

There's also confusion as to whether the removed collection boxes will be put back. DeJoy has agreed to testify before the House next week about the situation, so there should be more clarity then. Tim O'Donnell

August 16, 2020

Democratic leaders announced Sunday they are requesting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chair Michael Duncan testify before the House Oversight Committee on Aug. 24 in light of concerns — including warnings from the USPS itself that it cannot guarantee voters' ballots will be delivered on time — about the agency's ability to handle mail-in voting.

A letter signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and others, claims President Trump "has explicitly stated his intention to manipulate the Postal Service to deny eligible voters access to the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election" and describes DeJoy "as an accomplice in the president's campaign to cheat the election."

The allegations have cropped up in large part because DeJoy, a top Trump donor who took over his role in June, has implemented a series of measures that have delayed mail delivery across the country. DeJoy was supposed to appear before Congress in September, but public outcry forced legislators to move more quickly. Read more at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

August 15, 2020

As the controversy over the state of the United States Postal Service grows, the agency on Friday night said it will stop removing letter collection boxes in at least several states after facing backlash from lawmakers.

Photos of the removal of collection boxes began circulating online Friday, prompting critics of the Trump administration to add the action to their list of examples, which include potential mailing delays and reduced post office operating hours, of why they believe the president may be trying to manipulate the 2020 election by making mail-in voting more difficult. Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for USPS, said the removals were routine and that the agency was moving "low-use boxes to high traffic areas."

Nevertheless, USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon told CNN in a statement that the service would stop removing the boxes in 16 states — mostly in the West and Midwest — and in parts of two others until after the election. It wasn't clear if the moratorium would go into effect nationally, per CNN, although Spurgeon did tell NBC News that "we are not going to be removing any boxes." Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

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