Postal Service Fails to Meet Judge’s Deadline to Sweep Facilities for Mail-In Ballots

November 3, 2020 Updated: November 3, 2020

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) didn’t meet a deadline to carry out a sweep of several dozen districts around the United States for any undelivered mail-in ballots on Election Day after a judge ordered the agency to do so, according to the agency.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the USPS to conduct a sweep of its facilities between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET on Nov. 3.

The Postal Service said it wasn’t able to adhere to the judge’s order due to the timing.

“Given the time constraints set by this Court’s order, and the fact that Postal Inspectors operate on a nationwide basis, Defendants were unable to accelerate the daily review process to run from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. without significantly delaying preexisting activities on the day of the election,” the USPS said in a statement.

It added that about 300,000 ballots lacked a delivery scan.

“There are only one or two Inspectors in any one facility, and thus they do not have the ability to personally scour the entire facility. Indeed, doing so would be impractical (given the size of that facility) and would take them away from their other pressing Election Mail-related responsibilities, as detailed above,” the USPS said.

The agency said inspectors will be in the facilities Tuesday evening. It came after Sullivan said sweeps should be carried out in the districts of Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Colorado, Wyoming, Atlanta, Houston, Alabama, Northern New England, parts of South Carolina, South Florida, Lakeland (which covers parts of Illinois and Wisconsin), and Arizona.

Sullivan called on USPS inspectors to hunt down mail-in ballots “to ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery.”

In a statement, the agency disputed allegations that it’s not working quickly enough to process mail-in ballots.

“Beginning in January 2020, the U.S. Postal Service began ‘all clear’ sweeps to ensure Political Mail and Election Mail, which includes voter registration materials, requests for absentee ballots and ballots themselves, were not left behind. These efforts have intensified as we’ve moved closer to Election Day,” USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer said, according to Newsweek. “Since Oct. 29, the Inspection Service has been conducting daily reviews at all 220 facilities that process ballots,” he said.

The official said the “total mail volume surpassed 4.5 billion mailpieces for Political Mail and Election Mail tracked, representing an increase of 114 percent compared to the 2016 election cycle,” over the past year and two months.