Sep 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

USPS watchdog flags possible problems with timely process, delivery of election mail

A mail worker wearing a mask looks out the window while driving
Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The U.S. Postal Services' Office of the Inspector General found some unresolved issues within the agency that could impact its ability to efficiently process and deliver election mail with the general election just around the corner, according to an agency audit.

The big picture: More Americans than ever are expected to mail in their ballots in November's election as the coronavirus pandemic persists and voters aim to avoid possible exposure. The audit also comes as Democratic lawmakers worry that recent operational changes made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy threaten the USPS' ability to handle the anticipated surge in mail-in ballots.

  • Yes, but: DeJoy has suspended cost-cutting measures and modifications to mail-processing practices until after the election to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."
"While the Postal Service has made progress in preparing for the 2020 general election, there are concerns surrounding integrating stakeholder processes with the Postal Service’s processes to help ensure the timely delivery of Election and Political Mail."
— USPS Office of the Inspector General report

The audit found:

  • Ballots are being mailed without barcodes for tracking.
  • Ballot mailpiece designs are causing improper processing.
  • Election and political mail is being sent too close to election day for the Postal Service to properly process it.
  • Postmark requirements for ballots and voter addresses are out of date.

The state of play: The report also looked at how the USPS handled mail-in ballots during some states' primaries.

  • The OIG found that nearly 1.6 million mailpieces (8%) weren’t delivered on time between April and June for seven facilities across the U.S., blaming lag times on a dearth of oversight.
  • Between June 2 and Aug. 13, over 1 million ballots were mailed to voters late.
  • In 11 states, over 44,000 ballots were sent from the election boards the day of or day before the primary elections.
  • In 17 states, over 589,000 ballots were sent to voters after the state's ballot mailing deadline.

What they're saying: “Timely delivery of Election and Political Mail is necessary to ensure the integrity of the U.S. election process," the OIG said in a release.

  • David Williams, USPS' executive vice president and chief logistics and processing operations officer, recommended that voters ask for their ballots 15 days or more before election day and mail ballots at least seven days ahead, the Washington Post reports, citing his response to the audit’s findings.
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