WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday said it has delivered more than 100 million blank or completed ballots since early September for the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Officials during a media briefing said the Postal Service was well positioned to deliver ballots in a timely fashion and outlined a number of steps.
In total, 523 million pieces of election mail have entered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) network, up 162% over the 2016 election and there are still 12 days before the election. Oct. 5 has been the busiest single day with over 9 million ballots handled.
“Election mail will not be delayed,” said Kristin Seaver, the Postal Service’s chief retail and delivery officer. She noted election mail only represents 2% of total Postal Service volume. “We have prioritized all resources and areas of focus on the timely and secure delivery of election mail.”
Postal supervisors between Oct. 26 and Nov. 24 are “instructed to use extraordinary measures” to accelerate ballot deliveries, including extra deliveries, special pickups including Sunday deliveries and “running collected ballots to Boards of Elections on Election Day,” USPS said.
Four U.S. judges have issued preliminary injunctions barring the Postal Service from making service reductions before the vote.
Many more voters than usual are expected to cast their ballots by mail instead of in person because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said, without providing evidence, that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud.
The Postal Service is postmarking all ballots, no matter the postage payment method.
Several courts have ordered the Postal Service to treat all election mail as first-class or priority mail express. The Postal Service has agreed to add overtime to ensure timely ballot deliveries.
Late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan granted the Postal Service’s request to clarify his order on election mail handling.
Sullivan said the Postal Service is not required to ship Election Mail by any air or any particular means “but must
employ measures to expedite the handling of all election mail, which may include moving them by air.”
Sullivan said political mail, like flyers from political action committees and candidates, does not have the same priority as ballots.
Lawmakers and others had criticized Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who took over in June, for organizational changes that would delay mail delivery. In August, DeJoy agreed to suspend any changes through Election Day.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese, Tom Brown and David Gregorio
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