National: Federal judge keeps pressure on USPS to deliver remaining mail-in ballots by state deadlines | Dinah Voyles Pulver/USA Today

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the race for the White House on Saturday, but the counting of mail-in ballots cast in the tightly contested presidential election goes on. The U.S. Postal Service must continue searching its processing facilities twice a day for missing mail-in ballots in states where they are still being accepted, under a federal judge’s orders aimed at making sure every eligible ballot gets delivered in time. Those ballots are not expected to change the outcome of the election but will be included in each state’s final, certified tally. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan began issuing the orders earlier this week after the USPS reported low delivery scores and ballots that appeared to have entered their facilities but perhaps not exited them.  Since then, the USPS has found and delivered thousands of ballots. Sullivan also directed the agency to continue reporting the number of ballots found in the sweeps as well as other performance measures. The sweeps must continue until the state deadlines pass.

Full Article: Judge presses USPS to deliver remaining ballots by state deadlines

National: USPS ballot problems unlikely to change election outcomes in contested states – Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post

The 300,000 ballots the U.S. Postal Service reported as untraceable are unlikely to affect the outcome of the presidential race in key swing states — even in a worst-case scenario where all are lost — according to a Washington Post analysis. On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service notified a federal judge in the District of Columbia that the affected ballots had been scanned in at processing plants across the country but had never received exit scans signifying they’d been delivered to vote counters. The tracking issues raised alarms for voters in the 28 states that will not accept votes that arrive after Election Day and drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who ordered the agency to conduct ballot sweeps at a dozen processing plants by early Tuesday afternoon. But the Postal Service ignored Sullivan’s deadline, saying it would stick to its own inspection timetable, which voting rights advocates worried was too late in the day for any found ballots to make it to election officials. Meanwhile, nearly 7 percent of the ballots in Postal Service sorting facilities on Tuesday were not processed on time for submission to election officials, according to data the agency filed Wednesday in federal court, missing by a significant margin the 97 percent success rate postal and voting experts say the mail service should achieve.

Full Article: USPS ballot problems unlikely to change election outcomes in contested states – The Washington Post

USPS disregards court order to conduct ballot sweeps in 12 postal districts after more than 300,000 ballots cannot be traced | acob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service turned down a federal judge’s order late Tuesday afternoon to sweep mail processing facilities serving 15 states, saying instead it would stick to its own inspection schedule. The judge’s order came after the agency disclosed that more than 300,000 ballots nationwide could not be traced. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia had given the mail agency until 3:30 p.m. to conduct the “all clear” checks to ensure there would be enough time to get any found ballots to election officials before polls closed. His order affected 12 postal districts spanning 15 states. But in a filing sent to the court just before 5 p.m., Justice Department attorneys representing the Postal Service said the agency would not abide by the order to better accommodate inspector’s schedules. “This daily review process, however, occurs at different times every day,” DOJ attorney John Robinson wrote. “Specifically, on Election Night, it is scheduled to occur from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., a time period developed by Postal Service Management and the Postal Inspection Service in order to ensure that Inspectors are on site to ensure compliance at the critical period before the polls close. 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 12:30pm to 3:00pm without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the Election, something which Defendants did not understand the Court to invite or require.

Source: Judge orders USPS to conduct ballot sweep in 12 districts covering 15 states – The Washington Post

National: Millions of Votes Are in Postal Workers’ Hands. Here Is Their Story. | Photographs by Philip Montgomery, Text by Vauhini Vara/The New York Times

On the eve of the election, more than 90 million voters have been sent absentee or mail ballots, and 60 million of them have already been returned. In Florida — a swing state with many aging residents, who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 — six million people requested mail ballots, and more than 4.6 million have sent them back. For postal workers there, shepherding the votes is the latest challenge in an already exhausting year. In the spring, as the coronavirus spread, letter carriers began hauling bulky deliveries of toilet paper and bottled water. Then came the quarantines. A worker’s husband or son would test positive, and she would be out of commission. This summer, under the newly installed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, the agency moved to curtail overtime and get rid of sorting equipment, desisting only after a public outcry and accusations of political motivation. Then the election onslaught arrived.

Full Article: Millions of Votes Are in Postal Workers’ Hands. Here Is Their Story. – The New York Times

Michigan: Judge orders USPS to speed up Detroit ballot delivery | Nushrat Rahman/Detroit Free Press

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the United States Postal Service to accelerate the delivery of ballots in two regions, including Detroit, state officials announced Saturday. Judge Stanley Bastian issued the order on Friday following a status conference with USPS and a coalition of 13 plaintiff states, including Michigan, according to a news release. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in August joined a coalition of states filing a federal lawsuit against the USPS following slowdowns in mail service. Along with Detroit, the post office is also required to speed up delivery in the Lakeland region in Wisconsin under the order. “The slowdown of mail delivery in our state — especially in Detroit — has had a dramatic negative impact on the timely delivery of absentee ballots,” Nessel said in the release. “This has been a serious impediment to voters who have made the effort to request, receive, vote and return their absentee ballots. The Court’s order is an important step in righting this wrong but it is only a temporary fix to an ongoing problem.”

Full Article: Judge orders USPS to speed up Detroit ballot delivery

National: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November | Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage/The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election. As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting. The backlog comes as the president, who is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the polls, has escalated his efforts to cast doubt about the integrity of the November vote, which is expected to yield record numbers of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, Trump floated the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 general election, a notion that was widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. He has repeatedly gone after the Postal Service, recently suggesting that the agency cannot be trusted to deliver ballots.

National: Treasury agrees to lend Postal Service $10 billion in trade for rivals’ shipping contracts | Jacob Bogage/The Washington Post

The Treasury Department agreed to loan the U.S. Postal Service $10 billion in emergency coronavirus relief funding Wednesday in exchange for proprietary information about the mail service’s most lucrative private-sector contracts. The Postal Service, subject to confidentiality restrictions, will provide Treasury copies of its 10 largest “negotiated service agreements,” or contracts with high-volume third-party shippers such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS, and receive a crucial injection of cash that postal officials say will keep the debt-laden agency solvent for at least another year, according to a copy of the loan’s term sheet obtained by The Washington Post. The Postal Service contracts with private-sector shippers for “last-mile” delivery from distribution centers to consumers’ homes, and it offers those companies small discounts because of the volume of packages they provide. President Trump has derided the agency over those deals, which industry experts say only account for a roughly 5 percent savings. He has called the Postal Service Amazon’s “delivery boy” and falsely claimed the agreements are the reason the agency has struggled financially.

National: Post office concerns highlighted at Senate hearing on elections amid COVID-19 | Niels Lesniewski/Roll Call

“The post office is a very difficult situation for us right now.” That’s how Rick Stream, a Republican elections official from St. Louis County in Missouri, responded to a question Wednesday at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing about concerns over mail-in and absentee ballots not getting to election officials on time as the U.S. Postal Service faces funding and logistical challenges. Stream said that within his jurisdiction, the percentage of absentee voters jumped from about 10 percent seen in normal circumstances to 45 percent in the most recent election, and he expected that figure to increase with legal mail-in voting in November. “To be honest with you, senator, we have had problems with the post office since I’ve been in this office, for three-and-a-half years,” Stream said in response to a query from Rules Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Missouri law requires ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on election night in order to be counted, and the state continues to use a complicated system requiring validation from notaries in many cases. “The delivery times are less than optimal for sure,” Stream said. “We have even proposed having one of our employees work in the post office in our local community of St. Ann, to try to speed up the process, but to no avail.”

National: Scattered problems with mail-in ballots this year signal potential November challenges for Postal Service | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

Postal workers found three tubs of uncounted absentee ballots the day after the Wisconsin primary. Some Ohioans did not receive their ballots in time for the election because of mail delays. And in Dallas, absentee ballots some voters sent to the county were returned just days before Election Day, with no explanation. Problems caused by a spike in absentee voting during this year’s primaries are serving as potential warning signs for the U.S. Postal Service, which is bracing for an expected onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall as states and cities push alternatives to in-person voting because of the pandemic. The concern extends to local elections offices that may be unaccustomed to aspects of the mail, such as the time it takes for parcels to reach their destinations and how to design their ballots to meet postal standards. So the Postal Service is regularly sending advice and checklists to thousands of elections officials. Local elections offices are hiring temporary workers to process absentee ballots, and some local elections boards are adding options for voters to do curbside drop-offs of their mail ballots on Election Day. The Postal Service is also recommending that voters request their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day and mail their completed ballots at least one week before the due date.

National: Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight | Reid Wilson/The Hill

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed millions of voters to request their ballots by mail, a rapid increase that is likely to change the shape of the 2020 electorate and put incredible strain on an already limited United States Postal Service (USPS). Now, voting rights activists are raising questions about whether the Postal Service can handle the millions of ballots that will flood their processing centers in the days leading up to the presidential contest. The risk of errors, of voters who cannot receive ballots in time or ballots that do not reach elections administrators in time, could be cataclysmic. With the White House, the Senate and the House on the line, the prospects of finding a few tubs of ballots misplaced or overlooked could throw results of close races into question, adding to President Trump’s repeated efforts in recent days to delegitimize an election that has not yet taken place. The nightmare scenario has already played out twice this year. In a Supreme Court contest in Wisconsin in April, about 1,600 ballots were discovered the morning after Election Day in a mail processing facility in Chicago — 1,600 voters whose ballots did not count. Hundreds more who applied for absentee ballots did not receive them in time, according to a report by the state Board of Elections.

National: US Postal Service Faces Challenges With More Ballots Going In The Mail | Brian Naylor/NPR

Eight states and the District of Columbia are holding primary elections next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, and voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail in record numbers. It is likely to be a preview of what’s to come in the fall, and some worry whether the U.S. Postal Service is up to the challenge. A lot of people like the Postal Service; according to a recent Pew poll, 91% of Americans had a positive view, higher than any other branch of government. But it’s an agency with some big problems. To start, President Trump has called it a joke, demanded it raise its rates, and and made unfounded claims that mailed ballots will be “substantially fraudulent” and that mail boxes will be robbed.That’s  a false assertion, says Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser to the Democracy Fund. She tells NPR that voters need options like voting by mail during this pandemic. “For many, many people this year, it’s going to be to get their ballot delivered to them by the United States Postal Service,” she says. “Now, calling that into question, saying that people will be taking mail out of mailboxes — that’s just not going to happen.”

National: Postal Service’s financial stress might hurt its ability to handle large volume of mail-in ballots | Yelena Dzhanova/CNBC

As the coronavirus pandemic forces adjustments in 2020 races, some states worry that financial disruptions at the U.S. Postal Service may lead to decreased voter turnout in the general election.  More than a dozen states are already preparing for the November election, with the anticipation that more voters will choose mail-in ballots over in-person voting. If the USPS continues to endure financial stress, there are concerns that it may not be able to effectively carry out the expected onslaught of mail-in ballots for the election. “The Office of the Secretary of State has become increasingly concerned about the declining revenue of the United States Postal Service,” said Kylee Zabel, communications director at the Washington state election agency. “If the USPS diminishes, or interruptions in mail service occur, every single state will have to mitigate the impacts to their by-mail voters.” Washington state is one of five that conduct voting entirely by mail.

National: Activists Vow to Protect USPS as States Expand Mail-in Voting | Gabriella Novello/WhoWhatWhy

The latest victim of the attack on voting rights appears to be the United States Postal Service (USPS). As more states make changes to their election laws due to fears about the coronavirus, it remains uncertain how prepared local officials are to offer alternative methods of voting. In California, for example, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last week that the state would move toward an all-mail election — which means tens of millions of ballots will go through the postal system. Local election officials have raised concerns about the surge in absentee ballots and whether there is enough funding to process every returned ballot. And, in part because the White House has turned funding the postal service into a partisan debate, the cost of mailing every Californian a ballot could amount to a figure that the state has never had to meet before. The challenges may intensify, as the USPS, the agency charged with delivering and returning millions of ballots, is facing unprecedented uncertainty after reports that President Donald Trump will veto any legislation that includes funding for the beleaguered agency. Without federal aid, states may be forced to make difficult budgetary decisions in order to pay for the surge in mail ballots — so voting-rights groups are turning to the courts for help.

National: Postal Service Pick With Ties to Trump Raises Concerns Ahead of 2020 Election | Alan Rappeport/The New York Times

The installment of one of President Trump’s financial backers and a longtime Republican donor as the postmaster general is raising concerns among Democrats and ethics watchdogs that the Postal Service will be politicized at a time when states are mobilizing their vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the 2020 election. The Postal Service’s board of governors on Wednesday night selected Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman and veteran of the logistics industry, to lead the struggling agency, which faces insolvency and has frequently drawn the ire of Mr. Trump. The president has been pushing the post office to increase prices on companies that use it to deliver packages, such as Amazon, and has threatened to withhold funding if sweeping changes are not enacted. Those changes have failed to get off the ground, but with Mr. DeJoy at the helm there are growing concerns that the nation’s mail carrier could be weaponized. Mr. Trump declared last month that “the Postal Service is a joke” and assailed it for taking steep losses on packages it ships for big e-commerce companies at low rates. He suggested that the service increase the price it charges companies by four or five times the current rates.

National: Postal Services Struggles Could Hurt Mail-In Election | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

An unprecedented shift in American democracy is underway, as more states and counties turn to voting by mail. But as jurisdictions prepare for a pandemic-riddled presidential election, the threat of a financial crisis at the U.S. Postal Service looms over that alternative to in-person voting. If Congress does not pass a $75 billion bailout, the Postal Service says uninterrupted mail service may not last past September. That’s when local election officials plan to send out mail-in absentee ballots, letters with polling place information, voting booklets, new voter cards and federally mandated voter registration confirmation postcards. Because so much U.S. election infrastructure relies on mail, some state officials of both parties are sounding the alarm about the prospect of a financial crisis at the Postal Service. “I can’t understate how disastrous this would be to our democracy and our economy,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat. “Mid-election year is not the time to risk the dependability of the Postal Service.” State and local officials depend on the agency to run smooth elections, they say.

California: A crippled US Postal Service could throw a wrench in November election for San Diego and beyond | Charles T. Clark/The San Diego Union-Tribune

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated problems for the U.S. Postal Service and sparked a debate in Washington D.C. that could carry major ramifications for the November general election in San Diego and beyond. The U.S. Postal Service, or USPS, has long been America’s most popular public agency; a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans had favorable opinions about the agency. Nevertheless the agency has frequently faced financial challenges which have escalated during the pandemic, as revenue plummeted and mail volume dropped more than 30 percent from last year. Federal officials said they expect things to worsen in coming months, projecting mail volume will be down 50 percent in the second quarter, which runs April through June. Postmaster General Megan Brennan also told Congress last month she expects USPS will run out of cash by the end of September if it doesn’t receive government assistance, and the service has projected it could lose more than $23 billion over the next 18 months.

National: Postal Service, beset by funding woes, faces new fight over mail-in voting | Max Greenwood/The Hill

Advocates and experts fear the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) could find itself caught in the crosshairs of the emerging partisan fight over mail-in voting. Democrats are pressing for increased funding for by-mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing concerns about voters and workers congregating at polling stations. President Trump, meanwhile, threatened last month to block emergency COVID-19 assistance for the Postal Service if it did not raise its prices to cover a growing hole in its budget that could see the agency run out of money by end of the fiscal year. Trump reversed course late last week, vowing to “never let our Post Office fail.” His earlier remarks, however, raised alarm among state and federal officials and voting rights advocates, who see those warnings to the Postal Service as implicitly linked to the 2020 elections. Should the agency turn to layoffs or service reductions to cut costs, they argue, mail-in voting could be disrupted and millions of voters could be disenfranchised. “This is not and should not be a partisan or political issue. Both blue states and red states rely on the Postal Service to deliver ballots to and from voters,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “We shouldn’t be playing politics with the postal service because it will disenfranchise and suppress voters.”

National: Postal Service Funding Shortfall Could Derail Vote-By-Mail Efforts During Pandemic | Paul Blumenthal/HuffPost

If Congress allows the U.S. Postal Service to fail ― as President Donald Trump seems willing to do ― the nation’s ability to hold free, fair elections would be at risk, as would millions of voters who would be forced to go to the polls during a pandemic if they wanted to exercise their rights. In the 2016 election, 33 million Americans voted through the mail, using either absentee, military or mail-in ballots. Every state anticipates a significant increase in mailed ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, with anywhere from a doubling of vote-by-mail to a near 100% replacement of in-person voting. All of the states rely on the Postal Service to deliver and return those ballots. But the Postal Service projects that the drop in mail volume due to the pandemic could lead it to run out of funds in late summer or early fall. The independent agency is asking Congress for $75 billion in relief funding to keep it afloat, but faces resistance from Trump.

National: Partisan battle erupts over US Postal Service as some look to mail-in ballots amid pandemic | Allison Pecorin/ABC

As some lawmakers have begun to advocate for the use of mail-in ballots as a means of safeguarding voters amid the coronavirus pandemic during the upcoming 2020 elections, a partisan battle has erupted in Washington over the future of the crippled U.S. Postal Service. Lawmakers were already facing challenging decisions about how to rescue the troubled agency, which is on the brink of insolvency in the midst of the global health crisis, but the ongoing debate over mail-in ballots has added a political dimension to an already complex problem. The stakes could not be higher. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, told ABC News that if Congress does not approve more money for the agency, efforts to implement a nationwide vote-by-mail measure could be in jeopardy. “The whole point of this is to make it safe and effective, and I believe the post office is well equipped to do both,” Connolly said. “But it has to get an infusion of capital to ensure that that mission is smooth and uninterrupted.”

Editorials: Trump’s Attacks on the Post Office Threaten Democracy | David H. Gans and Rebecca Damante/Constitutional Accountability Center

In the weeks since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States, President Trump has waged war on one of our nation’s oldest institutions: the United States Postal Service (USPS). For example, earlier this month, the President threatened to veto a coronavirus relief package if it included emergency funding for USPS. And this is not the first time the President has attacked this important federal institution; he has also called the Post Office Amazon’s “Delivery Boy” and accused USPS of becoming “dumber and poorer.” Trump’s attacks come at a time when we need the Post Office most—our ability to hold elections in November and to fulfill our constitutional obligation to hold a national census depends on it. The Post Office has a long history dating back to the founding era.  It is one of a handful of institutions that is directly mentioned in the Constitution’s text.  Although our national charter left many details to be filled in, the Framers recognized that a postal system would be essential to unify the nation and encourage the spread of ideas across distant states.

National: Congress votes to force USPS to keep Saturday delivery | Chicago Tribune

Congress foiled the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service’s plan to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail when it passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery. The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, said last month it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually. Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service. The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around.

National: Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day | NBC

In states that rely largely or entirely on vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, a pre-Nov. 6 disruption of mail delivery caused by the U.S. Postal Service’s fiscal crisis would be a fiasco for voters and election officials. With partisan battles already under way on voter eligibility across the nation over fears of voter fraud and charges of vote suppression, the last thing the upcoming election needs is another procedural snafu. Washington and Oregon voters cast their ballots entirely by mail or at local drop boxes, and in California’s June primary, nearly two out of three voters cast their ballots by mail. Even in states where voters still show up in person to vote at their local precinct, absentee voting by mail is common. In order for the election to take place, the mail must get delivered promptly – no matter how dire the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis is – and it’s dire indeed. In the second quarter of its fiscal year (January to March) the Postal Service lost $3.2 billion. Congressional postal experts will be scrutinizing its third-quarter financial statement on Aug. 9 to see if the distress has worsened. While the Senate has passed a reform bill to keep the Postal Service afloat, the House hasn’t yet acted. Urging the House to move, one of the Senate reform leaders, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday “Only one week from now, the Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion payment to Treasury – further eroding the confidence of the millions of customers and businesses” that rely on mail to get delivered.

National: Postal Service to suspend closures during election season | The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service plans to suspend its planned closure of processing facilities and post offices during the November election season in response to concerns from state officials that the delivery of absentee or mail-in ballots might be lost or delayed in the shuffle. Postal officials announced plans last month to proceed with closing or consolidating at least 223 processing centers in the coming years in hopes of saving billions of dollars. USPS also plans to close thousands of post offices in the coming years in mostly rural communities. But state officials in Arizona, California, Ohio and Oregon, among others, complained that the changes could confuse voters accustomed to mailing ballots close to mail-in deadlines or Election Day.