USPS is warning election officials that mail-in ballots may not arrive on time

Vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential main in Washington. 

JASON REDMOND/AFP through Getty Pictures

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

You could really feel like there’s loads of time till Election Day to send in your mail-in ballots, however the US Postal Service has warned a number of states that many votes is probably not delivered in time to rely. Election officers are responding by urging voters to ship of their ballots as quickly as they will, to forestall delays from affecting the 2020 US presidential election’s consequence. 

Voting by mail has been around since the Civil War, however demand for it’s anticipated to surge in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Well being considerations over the extremely contagious illness are resulting in a historic variety of requests for mailing-in ballots. 

The Trump administration has falsely claimed that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread election fraud, and appointed a new postmaster general whose insurance policies would decelerate mail supply and processing. 

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic chief Chuck Schumer known as on President Donald Trump to cease the cuts to USPS, accusing the White Home of sabotaging the service to assist his reelection bid. 

“The president made plain that he’ll manipulate the operations of the publish workplace to disclaim eligible voters the poll in pursuit of his personal reelection,” Pelosi and Schumer mentioned in a joint statement on Friday

In late July, the USPS despatched letters to election officers in essential battleground states like Minnesota and Pennsylvania warning that mail-in ballots is probably not delivered on time.

“Underneath our studying of your state’s election legal guidelines, as in impact on July 27, 2020, sure state-law necessities and deadlines look like incompatible with the Postal Service’s supply requirements and the advisable timeframe famous above,” USPS Common Counsel Thomas J. Marshall mentioned in a letter to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. 

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The recommended time frame called for voters to send their ballots no later than Oct. 27, a week before the election. Minnesota’s election laws allow voters to request a ballot as late as the day before the election, and the USPS is warning that it won’t be able to deliver the ballots within 24 hours.

“As a result, to the extent that the mail is used to transmit ballots to and from voters, 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.” 

The Washington Post reported that 46 states have received warnings from the USPS that votes may not arrive in time to be counted, because certain states have election laws that invalidate ballots if they arrive after Election Day. 

“Through these efforts, the Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works, and to be mindful of our delivery standards, in order to provide voters ample time to cast their votes through the mail,” USPS said in a statement. 

These potential delays plant the seed for doubt and disinformation about mail-in ballots, prompting election officials to get the word out about voting earlier. 

The warning about ballots not being received in time is more about last-minute voters rather than people sending in their votes weeks ahead of the deadline, so election officials are pushing for voters to take immediate action. 

“If people want to vote from home, order your ballots as soon as you can, and once you get it, vote as soon as you’re comfortable,” Simon said. He noted that voters could also hand deliver their ballots to a drop-off box rather than relying on USPS. 

With the cuts to USPS’ services from the Trump administration, that may be a preferable route, the secretary of state suggested. 

“Just because you got your ballot in the mail doesn’t mean you have to send it back that way. As long as you make a plan and build in enough time, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. 

Election officials are also taking legal action to change state rules around ballot deadlines so they could be received in time. 

Pennsylvania’s State Department, which received the same warning as Minnesota, is asking its state Supreme Court to allow mail-in ballots to be counted if they’re received within three days after the election, as long as they have been postmarked by Nov. 3, according to CBS News.  

A Minnesota court order on Aug. 4 extended the state’s ballot deadline, which allows votes to be counted if they’re received within one week of Election Day and postmarked by Nov. 3. But the state is still looking to avoid as many last-minute voters lost to the USPS’ slowdown as possible. 

Disinformation is a major concern for the presidential election, with social networks working to prevent hoaxes from spreading about vote-by-mail. These warning letters add another layer, and election officials are hoping that their efforts will be enough to offset doubt about the outcome. 

“I sure hope that a letter like this, which no one seems to have remembered receiving in previous cycles, is not part of a coordinated strategy to sow doubt about the effectiveness of voting from home,” Simon said. “You can try to slow down the mail service, but you’re not going to slow down democracy.” 

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Alfred Ng