Judge orders Postal Service to sweep for unsent ballots, get them out for delivery

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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to send inspectors to sweep facilities in a number of swing states for any remaining ballots and send them out for delivery — a ruling that comes ahead of some states’ end-of-Tuesday deadlines to receive mail-in ballots

In an order issued Tuesday in Washington, D.C., District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said the Postal Service must sweep its facilities in Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Colorado/Wyoming, Atlanta, Houston, Alabama, Northern New England, Greater South Carolina, South Florida, Lakeland, and Arizona.

With many Americans turning to mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, controversy has swirled around the Trump administration’s handling of these ballots. The Trump-appointed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, initially ordered cost-cutting measures that could have slowed down delivery (he later agreed to drop these). The mail-in voting process has also been the subject of multiple lawsuits around the country. Some states require ballots to be received by Election Day in order to be counted, while others say ballots must only be post marked by the deadline.

“Defendants shall send Postal Service inspectors or their designees, to processing facilities in the following Districts and direct them to sweep the facilities between 12:30 PM EST and 3:00 PM EST to ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery,” Sullivan wrote.

The judge ordered the Postal Service to certify by 4:30 p.m. on Election Day that it has complied with the order. They must confirm “that sweeps were conducted and that no ballots were left behind,” he wrote.

The NAACP and other voting rights groups have sued USPS, charging that mail delays were interfering with Americans’ ability to vote.

Previously, Sullivan ordered the Postal Service to reverse limits that had been imposed on late and extra trips to collect mail. He also ordered daily video conferences between postal representatives and the plaintiffs in the days leading up to the election.

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