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USPS warns states that some mail-in ballots might not be counted

USPS warns states that some mail-in ballots might not be counted
The warning about delivering ballots in time came as the USPS faces financial hardships, a curtailing of overtime and the removal of mail sorting machines. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service sent dozens of states letters saying that some mail-in ballots might not be counted in time for the November election, a warning that further complicates the role of the USPS in the voting process.

The Washington Post was the first to report that Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president for the USPS, sent the letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C.

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He told the states their time frames and deadlines for mail-in voting would be "incongruous" with delivery standards, meaning some ballots might not arrive in time to be counted.

"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 letter said.

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Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon confirmed to MSNBC that he received the letter, and Stephen Chang, a spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, shared a copy with the Austin American-Statesman.

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Simon described the letter as "saber-rattling, totally unnecessary and totally inappropriate in a democracy in the year 2020."

He urged voters to mail in their ballots as soon as possible or hand-deliver them to a drop-off box.

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"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," Simon said.

The USPS' warning comes one day after President Donald Trump said he opposed funding the postal service because it would benefit those who seek to promote mail-in voting in November.

He and first lady Melania Trump just requested main-in ballots from the Palm Beach County, Fla., supervisor of elections' office, the Palm Beach Post reported Friday. The president and his wife have declared Florida to be their home state.

Democrats, in particular, have called for mail-in voting as a way to protect voters from the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day.

Trump has long opposed mail-in voting, saying it's too vulnerable to fraud.

"They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said Thursday.

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"Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting," he added. "They just can't have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing."

He backtracked on his comments later Thursday, saying he would sign a stimulus package that includes $25 billion for the agency, but only if Democrats give Republicans what they want in the relief legislation.

"Sure, if they gave us what we want. And it's not what I want, it's what the American people want," Trump said during a Friday news conference.

The financially struggling USPS has been undergoing an organizational overhaul, including the removal of some mail drop boxes in certain cities. The agency also is removing mail sorting machines from facilities across the country, some of which would normally be used to sort mail-in ballots, Vice reported.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the USPS still has "ample capacity" to handle the expected surge of mail-in ballots.

"The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes," USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told Vice.

"Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost-effective operations and better service for our customers."

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DeJoy, a Trump donor who was tapped to run the USPS three months ago, also has curtailed overtime at the agency, leading to delays in deliveries.

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