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USPS warns Pennsylvania that it can't guarantee timely delivery of mail-in ballots
Vote by mail ballot dropoff box at civic center in San Ramon, California. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

USPS warns Pennsylvania — a crucial swing state — that it can't guarantee timely delivery of mail-in ballots

That's a problem

The United States Postal Service has informed Pennsylvania officials that mail delivery won't be able to keep up with state election deadlines, setting up a scenario where votes might not be counted even if they are mailed and postmarked by the deadline due to delivery delays, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, wrote to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on July 29 explaining that current USPS delivery standard cannot match the turnaround time demanded by the state's election deadlines.

"This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them," Marshall wrote, according to the Inquirer.

As a result of the letter, Boockvar's office submitted a filing to the Supreme Court asking that mail-in ballots be counted as long as they were postmarked by the deadline and received by the Friday after Election Day. Such a delay could be significant to the overall election results. In the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump won the state by just 0.7%.

The Pennsylvania State Department is asking for the extension because the USPS' limitations present "an overwhelming, statewide risk of disenfranchisement for significant numbers of voters utilizing mail-in ballots."

The current law requires that mail-in ballots be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters can request mail-in ballots as late as seven days before the election. Pennsylvania is among the states now allowing all voters to vote by mail for any reason, which will likely lead to an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots at a time when the USPS is struggling even with normal delivery volume.

The mail issues are particularly severe around Philadelphia. From the Inquirer:

Serious mail delivery delays have impacted residents across the Philadelphia region, largely due to policies implemented by the new postmaster general, who is also a major Trump campaign donor. Those policies eliminate overtime, order carriers to leave mail behind to speed up workdays, and slash office hours.

The changes, coupled with staffing shortages amid previous budget cuts and coronavirus absences, are forcing some Philadelphians to go upward of three weeks without mail, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills. Mail is piling up in offices, often unscanned, carriers have said, and routes are going undelivered for days when a carrier is absent.

President Donald Trump has publicly opposed additional funding to the USPS that would assist with increased mail-in ballot volume, because the president believes universal mail-in voting would result in election fraud.

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