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USPS Warns 46 States of Mail-In Voting Trouble

Current deadlines are too tight, says postal service
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2020 1:37 PM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2020 2:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – The mail-in voting controversy is intensifying. The Washington Post reports that the US Postal Service has warned 46 states and DC that trouble is looming—the USPS can't guarantee all ballots cast by mail would arrive back in time to be counted. The reason is because current deadlines for people to request and return ballots, set up in pre-pandemic days, won't work amid the expected surge in mail voting. Some states are scrambling to change their deadlines—including Pennsylvania, per the Philadelphia Inquirer—but others have not or cannot do so in time for the election. “The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” a USPS spokeswoman says in a statement. Related:

  • Example: The USPS warned 31 states that voters would have to return their ballots by Oct. 27 to ensure they would be counted.
  • Obama: Former President Obama doesn't seem to be shy anymore about publicly criticizing his successor. In a podcast, Obama accused Trump of trying to "kneecap" the US Postal Service to discourage voting, reports CNN. "What we've seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting," Obama said on the podcast with his former campaign chief, David Plouffe. "What we've never seen before is a president say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the postal service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it."

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  • Elaborating: Obama appeared to be responding to comments Trump made Thursday in which he said he objected to additional money for the USPS as part of a coronavirus relief package, because the money would be used to help manage the surge in mail ballots. "You now have the president throwing in this additional monkey wrench trying to starve the Postal Service," Obama said. "My question is what are Republicans doing where you are so scared of people voting that you are now willing to undermine what is part of the basic infrastructure of American life?"
  • Trump's ballot: The president, meanwhile, has just requested his mail-in ballot for Florida's primary next week, reports USA Today. Trump has drawn a distinction between "absentee" voting, which he says he uses, and "universal" mail-in voting, in which states would mail ballots to all voters. He says that the first is safe but that the second is vulnerable to fraud. Florida, for the record, does not make a distinction on types of mail voting. All such ballots are processed the same way, and anyone can vote by mail for any reason, not just because they are out of state.
  • Machinery: As the debate over mail-in votes unfolds, Vice reports that the USPS is dismantling about 500 mail-sorting machines, or 15% of the total. The move threatens to further gum up the process amid the expected surge in mail balloting.
  • No meeting: NPR reports that a bipartisan group of secretaries of state—the people responsible for running elections in their states—have asked to meet with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to get a better handle on how recent policy changes and cutbacks might affect the November election. However, the meeting has yet to be scheduled. "Unfortunately, [we] still haven't had a direct conversation with the US postmaster," New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver tells NPR.
(Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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