Postal Service Didn't Look For All The Ballots, Because It Didn't Wanna
Yesterday, we were happy to let you know that DC Circuit Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered the US Postal Service to get off its butt and find any undelivered absentee ballots in 12 postal districts, to make sure the ballots were delivered to elections offices in time to be counted. Sullivan was quite clear about that: Certify that all sorting facilities in 13 states had completed "all clear" checks by 3 p.m. Eastern, "to ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery."
Except, oops, that didn't happen. Instead, the Justice Department, representing the Postal Service, informed Sullivan that USPS had decided to have postal inspectors stick to their regular schedules, so the daily "all clear" checks would be done between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. — after polls closed in some states. DOJ attorney John Robinson explained to the court that actually inspecting the sorting facilities would be haaaaaaard, so the agency just wasn't gonna:
Given the time constraints set by this Court's order, and the fact that Postal Inspectors operate on a nationwide basis, Defendants were unable to accelerate the daily review process to run from 12:30pm to 3:00pm without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the Election, something which Defendants did not understand the Court to invite or require.
That's some chootspah, there! We didn't think you actually required us to do the thing you specifically ordered us to do, so we didn't.
The document also advised that really looking for ballots would be more than any postal inspector could be asked to do:
There are only one or two Inspectors in any one facility, and thus they do not have the ability to personally scour the entire facility. Indeed, doing so would be impractical (given the size of that facility) and would take them away from their other pressing Election Mail related responsibilities[.]
Sullivan said he would allow the USPS to go ahead with its regularly scheduled inspections (It's not like he could force the agency to go back in time), but added that he would want some answers in an already-scheduled hearing today, to "discuss the apparent lack of compliance with the Court's order."
Sullivan issued the order for the sweep of sorting facilities after USPS data showed that, as of Monday, some 300,000 absentee ballots had been scanned as entering the system but hadn't yet been scanned as delivered. The Washington Post notes a potential explanation for that:
The agency said the quantity of those ballots that may have been misplaced was likely very low; postal officials ordered mail clerks to sort ballots by hand in many locations and items that were pulled out midstream for expedited delivery were not given an exit scan.
"We know yesterday that if the sweeps were doing their job, mail that was identified as ballots and were in the system should have been pulled out and delivered, and it may be that affects what we see as the scores," said Allison Zieve, an attorney representing the NAACP, which brought the lawsuit against the Postal Service with other civil rights groups.
But Zieve went on to add that because the USPS hasn't been entirely transparent, there's still doubt as to how many ballots went missing. "[It's] hard to know whether the numbers we saw today — the low [on-time delivery] scores for example in Atlanta and Central Pennsylvania — it's hard to assess how big a problem that is." And even a few hundred ballots that were sent in the mail but not delivered on time could make the difference in several of the close races for which we're still waiting for results.
On-time processing rates near and on Election Day have been pretty awful in key states, according to court filings today, CNBC reports:
In central Pennsylvania, just 61.3% of the mail-ballots in the postal system were delivered on time, the court filing shows. In Philadelphia, slightly more than 66% of the mail-in ballots had been delivered on Election Day.
In Atlanta 82.2% percent of the mail-in ballots were delivered on Election Day, the court filing shows.
Detroit postal facilities reported less than 79% percent of mail-in ballots delivered that day.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, 72.9% percent of the mail-in ballots were delivered on Tuesday.
And in Lakeland, Wisconsin, slightly less than 77% of such ballots were delivered, the filing revealed.
Sullivan is currently holding a hearing on the fuckups, at which he has already asked, "I would like you to explain just what the heck happened yesterday." He's suggested he may call Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify, and is taking testimony from Kevin Bray, the USPS executive in charge of election mail, a position that Courthouse News Service reporter Megan Miniero notes Bray has held for about four weeks.
We'll keep you updated as the fuckery continues.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.