Aug 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

USPS tells Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered on time

Containers of mail-in ballots in Reading, Pennsylvania, on June 3.

Containers of mail-in ballots in Reading, Pa., on June 3. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The U.S. Postal Service told Pennsylvania officials in a July letter that "there is a significant risk" that mail-in ballots may not be delivered on time for the November election because the state’s election deadlines are "incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," according to a Thursday court filing.

Why it matters: The letter comes as President Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting and vowed that he will block demands to fund mail-in voting and the USPS, claiming without evidence that the ballots produce widespread voter fraud.

The big picture: Pennsylvania's Department of State submitted the filing containing the letter to the state Supreme Court, asking it to order that mail-in ballots will remain countable as long as election officials receive them up to three days after the election, the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported.

  • The results of the presidential race in Pennsylvania, a battleground state, may not be known for days after Nov. 3 if the court agrees to issue the order.

What they're saying: Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president for the Postal Service, sent the letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on July 29.

  • In it, Marshall writes that "under our reading of Pennsylvania's election laws, certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards."
  • "This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them."

The other side: Pennsylvania's Department of State told the court that Marshall's letter represented “a significant change to the outlook for voting by mail in the general election.”

  • "[T]he Postal Service had not indicated the likelihood of widespread, continuing, multiple-day mail-delivery delays presenting an overwhelming, statewide risk of disenfranchisement for significant numbers of voters utilizing mail-in ballots" before sending the letter, the filing reads.

Read the filing.

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