The U.S. Postal Service has warned at least two states — Washington and the battleground state of Pennsylvania — that some mail-in ballots are at risk of not being delivered on time to be counted in the November general election because the states’ deadlines are too tight for its “delivery standards.”
Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of USPS, expressed the agency’s concern regarding this “mismatch” in two separate letters to Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, and Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state. The Philadelphia Inquirer was the first to report on the letters, which were dated July 29 and July 31, respectively.
Marshall warned in the letters that some of the states’ deadlines concerning mail-in ballots were “incongruous” and “incompatible” with the Postal Service’s delivery standards. “This mismatch,” he wrote, “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.”
In Washington’s case, Marshall expressed concern over voters who may register to vote or update their registration information very close to Nov. 3. In Pennsylvania, Marshall said voters are allowed to request a ballot as late as one week before Election Day, but, he said, there’s a “significant risk that the voter will not have sufficient time to complete and mail the completed ballot back.”
According to the Inquirer, Marshall’s letter to Boockvar was made public on Thursday in a filing submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Boockvar’s department has asked the court to allow mail-in ballots to be counted so long as they are received up to three days after Nov. 3 ― and are postmarked on or before Election Day.
Pennsylvania law currently requires mail-in ballots be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
“[J]udicial relief is needed to protect Pennsylvanians’ fundamental right to vote,” Boockvar’s department wrote to the court, adding that Marshall’s letter had revealed “an overwhelming, statewide risk of disenfranchisement for significant numbers of voters utilizing mail-in ballots.”
Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state, had earlier expressed her own worries about the effect postal delivery delays could have on the election.
″I’m very concerned that delays in postal delivery are going to have a negative effect on absentee ballots and vote-by-mail elections,” Wyman, a Republican, told NPR earlier this month.
She added that she was troubled by President Donald Trump’s repeated ― and baseless ― insistence that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud.
“I think it really shatters people’s confidence in the process,” Wyman said. “We need to make sure we’re inspiring confidence in the public that this is a fair election. And the way you do that is balancing access and security.”
Trump on Thursday admitted in an interview with Fox Business that he was pushing back against Democrats’ demands for additional USPS funding because of his opposition to “universal mail-in voting.”
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said, referring to ongoing negotiations over a coronavirus relief package. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”
Facing criticism for his remarks, Trump later said he would not veto a relief bill just because it included added USPS funding. He, however, again pushed the idea that mail-in voting would lead to an unfair election.
“We have to have an honest election. And if it’s not going to be an honest election, I guess people have to sit down and think really long and hard about it,” he told reporters.