With a staggering number of Americans voting early this election season—and many relying on the U.S. Postal Service for timely delivery of their ballots—alarming data reported by the Associated Press Friday shows that mail service delays driven by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's operational changes are continuing in key battleground states less than two weeks out from the November 3 contest.
The significant delays in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other key states are intensifying existing fears that despite a slew of recent court orders requiring USPS to reverse the changes, DeJoy's sweeping and disruptive policy moves could still have a major impact on the high-stakes presidential election. DeJoy is a Republican megadonor to President Donald Trump who was appointed to head the USPS in May despite his complete lack of experience at the agency.
"We do encourage people who are worried about ballots not getting here on time to get them in as soon as possible."
—Brenda Watson, Perry County, Pennsylvania commissioner As AP reported Friday, the Postal Service's latest performance figures "show nearly all the agency's delivery regions missing [the USPS] target of having at least 95% of first-class mail arrive within five days."
"Parts of the presidential battleground states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio fell short of delivery goals by wide margins as the agency struggles to regain its footing after a tumultuous summer," AP noted. "The delays are a worrisome sign for voters who still have not returned their absentee ballots. That is especially true in states such as Michigan, where ballots must be received by Election Day. Other states require a postmark by November 3."
State election officials are imploring residents planning on voting by mail to urgently submit their ballots to ensure they arrive on time to be counted.
"We do encourage people who are worried about ballots not getting here on time to get them in as soon as possible," Perry County, Pennsylvania Commissioner Brenda Watson told AP.
Last month, as Common Dreams reported, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled ballots that arrive at county election offices by 5:00 pm on Friday, November 6 must be counted as long as they are postmarked by November 3. A deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court allowed the ruling to stand last week.
According to AP, "In the week that ended Oct. 9, first-class mail was delivered on time 79.7% of the time in the district covering Philadelphia and its suburbs, and 83.2% of the time in central Pennsylvania, both below the national average of 86.1%."
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that his own investigation into USPS performance in Michigan revealed that delivery speed in the state "remains below levels prior to Postmaster General DeJoy's July 2020 changes."
"Michiganders are counting on the Postal Service to deliver their mail on time, and this decline in service across the state is completely unacceptable," said Peters. "At a time when communities in Michigan and across the country are counting on the Postal Service more than ever to deliver their prescription drugs, business mail, and even absentee ballots, these persistent and increasing delays only continue to hurt the people who rely on the mail to stay connected."
My investigation has found there are still mail delays in Michigan and across the nation.
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We must address these delays and reverse the changes that are continuing to cause delays.
Michiganders are counting on it.https://t.co/Lijh8foguK
— Gary Peters (@GaryPeters) October 10, 2020
The additional evidence of ongoing mail delays in battleground states and across the nation comes as more than 50 million Americans have already cast their ballots for the November election, according to a new estimate by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida's Elections Project—an indication that the contest could shatter turnout records.
Since DeJoy began implementing his operational changes in July, lawmakers and postal workers have been warning that altering longstanding USPS policies amid an unprecedented surge in mail-in ballot would add further chaos to an election already thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The delays hurt families and added unneeded stress. Mr. DeJoy fancies himself a king of private sector industry, but any CEO who failed to engage his customers would be fired."
—Rep. Gerry Connolly
On Monday, the U.S. Postal Service inspector general issued a report (pdf) confirming that DeJoy's changes—from the slashing of extra delivery trips to changes to mail-sorting practices—"negatively impacted the quality and timeliness of mail delivery."
The IG also noted that DeJoy did not conduct an analysis of the potential service impacts the changes would have prior to their implementation and "guidance to the field for these strategies was very limited and almost exclusively oral."
"DeJoy and the Postal Service Board of Governors took no steps to understand how their operational changes would affect Postal Service customers who rely on delivery of their prescription medications, vital food products, medical devices, or paychecks—all in the midst of a pandemic," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said in a statement.
"The delays hurt families and added unneeded stress," Connolly added. "Mr. DeJoy fancies himself a king of private sector industry, but any CEO who failed to engage his customers would be fired. The Board of Governors needs to do its job and remove him.”