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Vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary are pictured at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020.

Vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary are pictured at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020. (Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

'A Fiasco Is Clearly Foreseeable': USPS Watchdog Probe Found 1 Million Primary Ballots Likely Delivered Too Late to Count

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the findings "more powerful proof that resources and reform are vital right away to prevent serious election mail delays and voting suppression."

Andrea Germanos

The U.S. Postal Service's internal watchdog issued in a report this week detailing a number of concerns about how prepared the service is for the upcoming November elections in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail, with one Democratic lawmaker seizing the findings as further evidence of the need for reforms "to prevent serious election mail delays and voting suppression."

The audit from the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was released Monday and probed the service's "readiness for timely processing of election and political mail." Among the findings were that 1.6 million pieces of election mail weren't delivered on time from April through June, and over 1 million primary ballots were at "high risk" of not getting back to election boards on time to be counted because they were sent out within seven days of an election.

"The Postal Service plays a vital role in the American democratic process and this role continues to grow as the volume of election and political mail increases," the OIG said.

Reviewed by the watchdog were seven processing and distribution centers (P&DCs)—Santa Clarita, California; Portland; Indianapolis; Baltimore; Charleston, South Carolina; Brooklyn, and Oklahoma City—that were handling materials for primary elections held in May and June 2020.

The audit was conducted before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump campaign megadonor, took charge of the service in June and began a rollout of sweeping changes that prompted congressional hearings, demands for DeJoy's ouster, and nationwide rallies to #SaveThePostOffice.

A number of concerns were outlined in the watchdog's report: ballots mailed without barcode mail tracking technology; ballot mail piece designs that result in improper processing; election and political mail likely to be mailed too close to the election, resulting in insufficient time for the Postal Service to process and deliver the mailpieces; postmark requirements for ballots; and voter addresses that are out of date.

"An analysis of data determined the total number of identifiable election and political mail mailpieces not delivered on time from April 2020 through June 2020 for the seven P&DCs was about 1.6 million (8 percent) of 20.2 million mailpieces," the report said.

Actions by election officials were also blamed for problems with processing election materials.

"According to Postal Service management," the report said, "during the primary election season, election boards mailed over 1 million ballots to voters within seven days of an election. This put these ballots at high risk by not allowing sufficient time for delivery to voters and their subsequent delivery back to the election boards."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sharing Wednesday the Washington Post's reporting on IG report, called the findings "more powerful proof that resources and reform are vital right away to prevent serious election mail delays and voting suppression."

"Plain fact and our pleas for action align with findings of this report," tweeted Blumenthal, warning that "a fiasco is clearly foreseeable."


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