The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said it completed a mandatory sweep for undelivered mail-in ballots at its facilities in several key swing states late Tuesday although it missed a court-set deadline earlier in the day, with the judge in the case warning that “someone might have a price to pay” over the matter.
USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told The Epoch Times in a statement that the company “did complete the sweep Tuesday evening as required.”
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered the sweeps in response to lawsuits by groups including Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates.
While the sweeps did take place, USPS said in an earlier statement it was not logistically possible to adhere to the 3 p.m. deadline.
“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,” USPS said in a statement.
“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.
Department of Justice lawyers representing USPS were cited by Forbes as saying at a hearing on Wednesday that the sweeps ultimately did happen “even if the timing did not.”
The judge said USPS should have notified the court about its inability to meet the court-ordered deadline so it could be adjusted. Sullivan was cited by Forbes as saying “someone might have a price to pay” for missing the deadline and that his concerns about the postal service “[start] at the top of the food chain.”
He said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy “is either going to have to be deposed or appear before me and testify under oath about why some measures were not taken.”
Postal Service data showed that as of Sunday about 300,000 ballots that were received for mail processing did not receive scans confirming their delivery to election authorities.
In a court filing the Postal Service said “the lack of a destination or finalization scan does not mean that the ballots were not delivered.” The agency added that “ballots were delivered in advance of the election deadlines. We employed extraordinary measures to deliver ballots directly to local boards of elections. When this occurs, by design, these ballots bypass certain processing operations and do not receive a final scan.”
The Postal Service reported the timely processing of 93.3 percent of ballots on Election Day, its best processing score in several days.
Partenheimer told The Epoch Times that “the assumption that there are unaccounted ballots within the Postal Service network is inaccurate. These ballots were delivered in advance of the election deadlines. We employed extraordinary measures to deliver ballots directly to local boards of elections. When this occurs, by design, these ballots bypass certain processing operations and do not receive a final scan. Instead, they are expedited directly to the boards of elections. We remain in close contact with state and local boards of elections and we do not currently have any open issues.”
In a separate order, Sullivan called for a new round of sweeps at postal processing centers in Texas ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for postal ballots. USPS said that two sweeps resulted in around 800 ballots identified for delivery.
The Postal Service is carrying out sweeps and using priority mail networks through Saturday to deliver any remaining ballots. Many states are accepting ballots for up to a week after Election Day as long as they were postmarked on or before Nov. 3. Ballots are still being counted by election officials in battleground states in the contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Sullivan said on Wednesday said he wants to ensure all remaining ballots for the closely contested election are delivered.
“The pressing issues are where are the ballots and how do we get them delivered so they can be counted,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s initial order covered processing centers in central Pennsylvania, northern New England, greater South Carolina, south Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin and parts of Illinois, Arizona, Alabama and Wyoming, as well as the cities of Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
Reuters contributed to this report.