BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Mail-in ballots could be delayed in 46 states, including Maryland, possibly leading to those ballots not being counted in the November general election, the U.S. Postal Service warned.
The Maryland State Board of Elections said the postal service reached out to them on July 31 to outline its “operational capacities for the 2020 General Election.” In turn, the elections board made a number of changes, including moving up the deadline for voters to return ballot applications by one week to October 20.
Ballots will begin to be mailed at least 30 days before the election and will use first-class mail.
“While voters’ ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, ballots are timely as long as they are received by Friday, Nov. 13– 10 days after Election Day,” the board said in a news release.
The warning from USPS comes as parts of Maryland report major delays in everyday delivery services.
Marylanders and residents of other states have reported delays in getting mail for a while. Last week, frustrated Baltimore County residents said they haven’t been getting their mail at all.
“Everyone around here is getting nothing and then on Saturday they get little bits of coupons and stuff like that,” Dundalk resident Trinity Bassey said.
Mail delivery issues have some voters like Rita Masters from Dundalk wondering whether their ballots would be counted if they mailed them.
“If I get one and I mail it, are they positive that they’re going to send it to the elections or not?” she wondered.
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Local union postal workers representatives told WJZ as of recently, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has made cost-cutting measures to address USPS’ financial problems.
Among the changes are reduced overtime hours, changes in transportation and the removal of vital processing equipment that has, in turn, slowed deliveries.
“Before, they had to have trucks before they pulled off the docks, the trucks should have been 100 percent full. Now they are instructed to leave whether they have the 100 percent or not, so that causes a delay,” Sherry McKnight, the president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 181, said.
Mail delivery delays prompted a number of Maryland lawmakers to send DeJoy a letter Friday urging him to make a number of changes to combat the issues.
“We are specifically requesting that you reinstate and continue paying overtime, develop measures to keep employees safe, allow more flexibility with regard to start and end times for routes, and develop a plan to address staffing shortages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads in part.
A USPS spokesperson said there are a number of misconceptions about its recent efforts, directing WJZ to comments DeJoy made last week:
“Let me be clear that with regard to Election Mail, the Postal Service and I are fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process. If public policy makers choose to utilize the mail as a part of their election system, we will do everything we can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards. We do ask election officials and voters to be mindful of the time that it takes for us to deliver ballots, whether it is a blank ballot going to a voter or a completed ballot going back to election officials. We have delivery standards that have been in place for many years. These standards have not changed, and despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down Election Mail or any other mail. Instead, we continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail.”
At the time, DeJoy also said the postal service has been working with election officials to make sure they know about delivery standards and methods so they can educate voters.
Still, USPS warned states that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail by the November election will arrive in time to be counted.
McKnight said when it comes to mail-in ballots, she doesn’t want anyone losing faith that the postal workers won’t get the job done.
“Let it be clear that we’re going to get the ballots out timely,” she said. “We’re going to process them, we’re just saying there are roadblocks that might take place, but let it be clear the mail will be out.”
The union is urging people to contact their representatives to support local postal workers and ensure USPS gets the federal funding it needs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to battle over funding for the postal service as part of a larger coronavirus package, President Donald Trump on Friday said he would sign an agreement with mail-in voting funding in exchange for Republican priorities.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) August 13, 2020
The president has expressed opposition to widescale voting by mail, while Maryland officials, including Gov. Larry Hogan, encourage people to cast their ballots from home and mail them in.