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Postal Service refuses judge's order to quickly sweep facilities for ballots

By Jonna Lorenz & Christen McCurdy
Broward County, Fla., voters drive up to drop off their mail-in ballots at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill on Friday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Broward County, Fla., voters drive up to drop off their mail-in ballots at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill on Friday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service late Tuesday afternoon turned down a judge's order to quickly sweep mail processing facilities in 15 states to ensure no ballots are delayed.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the sweep to occur between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. EST in 12 postal districts that span 15 states.

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They include central Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; Detroit; Colorado/Wyoming; Atlanta; Houston; Alabama; Northern New England; Greater South Carolina; South Florida; Lakeland, Mich.; and Arizona.

The order came after USPS disclosed that 300,523 ballots nationwide had received incoming scans, but no exit scans, at postal processing plants.

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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 comply with the order so that it could better accommodate inspectors' schedules.

Attorney John Robinson, writing for the Justice Department, argued that the daily review process already had been scheduled to occur from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"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 pm to 3:00 pm without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the Election, something which Defendants did not understand the Court to invite or require," Robinson wrote.

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The districts, which have been slow to process ballots, include key battleground states, and many require mail-in ballots to be received by the time polls close. Pennsylvania will accept mail-in ballots until Friday, but that deadline could face legal challenges. Texas will accept ballots received by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Sullivan previously ordered the USPS to implement emergency election measures after concerns were raised about slow ballot processing in some states. Delays in mail delivery leading up to the election have been a concern since Postmaster General Louis DeJoy imposed changes, many of which have been reversed.

The USPS has attributed delays to such issues as staffing shortages and poor weather.

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The Postal Service has reported declining rates of on-time delivery of completed ballots to election offices.

On Monday, 89.6% of completed ballots were delivered on time, with lower rates in some areas, including 61% in Atlanta, 69.1% in Central Pennsylvania, 77.7% in Detroit and 79.9% in Michigan's Lakeland district.

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