WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) must remind senior managers they must follow its “extraordinary measures” policy and use its Express Mail Network to expedite ballots ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, under an order signed by a U.S. judge.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order on Sunday, to which the USPS agreed, said the postal service must reinforce its “special procedures” to ensure it “delivers every ballot possible by the cutoff time on Election Day.”
USPS will also reinforce to managers that “all ballots with a local destination must be cleared and processed on the same day or no later than the next morning for delivery to local offices, from now through at least November 7.”
Sullivan, of U.S. District Court in Washington, on Friday had ordered USPS to adopt “extraordinary measures” at numerous processing locations to ensure the timely delivery of millions of ballots before Tuesday’s presidential election.
Sunday’s order, following a series of court hearing over the weekend, directed USPS to redistribute to all division directors and plant managers by 9 p.m. EST Sunday the “extraordinary measures” policy providing specific guidance for the final week of the 2020 election, “and that it is recirculating this policy at the instruction of a federal district court.”
Sullivan also said the USPS must reinforce the need to apply a legible postmark to every ballot reflecting the date it was collected. USPS must postmark all ballots, even those without postage, Sunday’s order said.
USPS must use its “Express Mail Network on Monday, Tuesday, and after Election Day to expedite ballots out of local service area to ensure timely delivery of ballots, unless there is a faster surface option,” the order said.
Sullivan on Friday had ordered measures in places where election mail processing scores for completed ballots returned by voters were recently below 90%.
Sullivan said Sunday he was also ordering daily status reports “regarding the situation at the Princeton post office in Miami-Dade County regarding allegations of a backlog of Election Mail.”
The USPS issued a memo on Friday outlining numerous extra measures it is taking to deliver ballots, including arranging for after-hours handoffs with boards of elections.
The postal service does not recommend mailing ballots less than seven days before state deadlines. Some states accept ballots for up to a week if postmarked by Election Day, while others require receipt by then. Louisiana requires receipt by Monday.
On Thursday, the Postal Service said it had delivered 122 million blank and completed ballots ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, in which there has been record early voting.
The push to get ballots delivered by Election Day evening has taken on new significance, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly said, without evidence, that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud. On Sunday, he insisted that the results should be known by Tuesday evening, even though counting absentee ballots often takes much longer than that.
“If people wanted to get their ballots in, they should have gotten their ballots in long before that,” Trump told reporters.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle)