Postal Service Warns Pennsylvania Mail-In Ballots May Arrive Too Late to Be Counted

August 14, 2020 Updated: August 14, 2020

The U.S. Postal Service warned Pennsylvania officials in a letter that, even if all legal and operational procedures are followed, “there is a significant risk” mail-in ballots for the November election may arrive too late to be counted because the state’s election deadlines are likely “incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”

“To be clear, the Postal Service is not purporting to definitively interpret the requirements of your state’s election laws,” states the July letter, attached as an exhibit to a filing submitted by Pennsylvania’s Department of State to the state Supreme Court (pdf) on Aug. 13. But the USPS warned that if voters wait until the last minute to request a ballot and election officials use all the time legally allotted to them to send out blank ballots and do so using a slower postal service, which they are legally allowed to do, then completed ballots may arrive several days too late to be valid.

“There is a significant risk that, at least in certain circumstances, ballots may be requested in a manner that is consistent with your election rules and returned promptly, and yet not be returned in time to be counted,” wrote Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president for the Postal Service, in the letter addressed to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

Specifically, Pennsylvania election law lets voters request a ballot as late as 7 days before Election Day and election officials have 2 days to transmit a ballot after receiving an application. And since officials may legally use Marketing Mail, with a typical delivery time of as much as 10 days, this could see ballots returned to election officials several days after the Election Day deadline.

Neither USPS nor Commonwealth of Pennsylvania representatives immediately responded to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

mail in voting
Election workers sort vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary at King County Elections in Renton, Wash., on March 10, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

To cut the risk of late ballots, the USPS urged officials to send blank ballots using the faster First-Class Mail service, with a typical delivery time of 2-5 days, while voters should mail their ballots no later than Tuesday, October 27, to be sure their votes arrive in time to be counted.

Pennsylvania officials, in a bid to ensure that the circumstances outlined by the Postal Service don’t impact the ability of voters to submit valid ballots by mail, have effectively requested a three-day extension. Arguing that the USPS letter shows that “judicial relief is needed to protect Pennsylvanians’ fundamental right to vote,” Pennsylvania’s Department of State submitted a filing to the state Supreme Court, asking it to order that mail-in ballots will be countable as long as election officials receive them up to three days after the election, the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported.

If the court agrees to the extension, it could mean that the results of the presidential race in Pennsylvania, a battleground state narrowly won by President Donald Trump in 2016, could remain up in the air for days after November 3.

Trump, a vocal critic of the Postal Service, contended recently that “the Post Office doesn’t have enough time” to handle a significant increase in mail-in ballots.

“I mean you’re talking about millions of votes. … It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Trump said.

It comes as some lawmakers in Washington have raised concerns about delays in mail delivery amid reorganization efforts at the Postal Service.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Lizette Portugal finishes loading her truck amid the COVID-19 pandemic in El Paso, Texas, on April 30, 2020. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

In July, postmaster general and CEO Louis DeJoy imposed cost-cutting measures meant to address the Postal Service’s longtime financial problems, including cutting overtime. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized the changes, with 84 House members, including four Republicans, arguing in a recent letter that it is “vital that the Postal Service does not reduce mail delivery hours, which could harm rural communities, seniors, small businesses and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages.”

DeJoy said in recent remarks that the Postal Service remains “fully committed to fulfilling [its] role in the electoral process,” and that the USPS “will do everything [it] can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards.”

“We continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail,” he insisted.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM