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The USPS Says it Has Completed Court-Ordered Search for Possible Missing Ballots


A federal judge on Wednesday threatened to call Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to appear before him, expressing frustration with the Postal Service’s slow response in carrying out Election Day sweeps of postal facilities looking for undelivered ballots.

“The postmaster is either going have to be deposed or appear before me,” said Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia, as he continued to monitor the agency’s performance delivering ballots, which can be counted for days after the election in many states.

“I’m not pleased about this 11th-hour development last night. Someone may have a price to pay for that.”

On Tuesday, Judge Sullivan had ordered inspectors to sweep facilities in 12 districts after the Postal Service said in court that some 300,000 ballots it had received had not been scanned for delivery. He said he was particularly concerned about ballot delivery in key swing districts with low on-time delivery scores, including Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Detroit.

The judge gave the agency until 3 p.m. to complete the sweeps, but the Postal Service said it would need until 8 p.m. to do the work without disrupting the processing of a flood of Election Day ballots.

On Wednesday morning, the Postal Service it had completed the sweeps, and that they turned up only a “relative handful of ballots” — about 12 or 13, according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Joseph Borson, who is representing the Postal Service.

The judge’s dramatic Election Day order came as record numbers of Americans cast ballots by mail this year, with voters were anxious to avoid crowds at the polls during the pandemic — and at the end of a campaign season marked by fears that Postal Service changes and cutbacks under Mr. DeJoy, a Trump appointee, had caused extensive mail delays that could imperil ballots.

“Why was it as of yesterday there were still ballots being delivered late?” Shankar Duraiswamy, the lead lawyer for the nonprofit coalition Vote Forward, which is suing the Postal Service to try to ensure all ballots are delivered, asked during Wednesday’s hearing.

He said the court must now focus on getting ballots to the 21 states in the country that accept ballots postmarked by or before Election Day in the days after the election.

“We’re very focused on the next set of deadlines,” he said.

Mr. Duraiswamy also asked the Postal Service to investigate a report he said he’d received about “boxes of ballots” sitting delayed in Greensboro, N.C.

Roughly 300,000 ballots that the Postal Service says it processed showed no scan confirming their delivery to ballot-counting sites, according to data filed recently in federal court in Washington, D.C., leaving voter-rights advocates concerned.

Postal officials said that just because a ballot never received a final scan before going out for delivery, it did not mean that it wasn’t delivered. A machine scanning ballots for final processing can sometimes miss ballots that are stuck together or have smudged bar codes. And hand-sorted ballots typically do not receive a final scan before delivery.

The Postal Service has also authorized expedited delivery of ballots that forego the normal process, but voting-rights advocates worried that without a scan verifying that the ballots went out for delivery, some could be sitting uncounted at various postal facilities around the country.

The Postal Service said Wednesday morning said the agency had been conducting daily searches at all of its facilities for ballots that might fall through the cracks.

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