Millions of mail-out votes in 46 states may not arrive in time for presidential election, Postal Service warns

The US Postal Service cannot guarantee absentee ballots will arrive in time to be counted for November’s elections in 46 states and Washington DC, signalling the possibility of mass disenfranchisement amid political turmoil and the uncertain financial fate of the beleaguered agency.

Drafted prior to the appointment of Donald Trump‘s ally Louis DeJoy as the agency’s postmaster general, letters obtained by The Washington Post and CNN warn election officials and secretaries of state that states’s election laws may not necessarily guarantee ballots will arrive in time to be counted.

On Thursday, the president – who has cast doubt about the agency’s ability to “handle” an increase in absentee ballots – said he opposed efforts to fund the Postal Service because it would lead to an increase in mail-in voting, despite fears that crowding at the polls during the coronavirus pandemic could lead to infections.

In a statement this month, however, the USPS said it has “ample capacity to adjust” its nationwide processing and delivery network to meet an expected increase in election-related mail.

The agency’s letters to 40 states warned that their rules for requesting, returning and counting ballots are “incongruous” with mail service.

“The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” USPS spokesperson Martha Johnson said in a statement to The Washington Post.

The Independent‘s request for comment was not immediately returned.

Mr DeJoy, who assumed the role in June, has called recent cost-cutting measures a “strategic plan to achieve operation excellence and financial stability” following a pandemic-related decline in mail volume. The cuts include staff reductions and the removal of critically needed mail-sorting machines.

The president has also threatened to withhold emergency funding and election assistance from the Postal Service, while discussing transparent attempts to curb nationwide mail-in voting during the pandemic in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.

“They want $25 billion – billion – for the post office,” he said. “Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots … Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting … because they’re not equipped.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that absentee ballots will lead to a spike in fraud, despite explicitly saying that he is denying funding to expand the option and capacity because it would lead to an increase in participation. He told Fox News earlier this year that an increase in mail-in ballots would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pushed for a House-backed plan to boost election efforts with $3.6bn in relief funds, has argued that the president is threatening to undermine the USPS to win re-election.

“Donald Trump is saying the quiet part out loud: His continued efforts to cripple the USPS are a clear attempt to sabotage the election and suppress the vote in the middle of a pandemic,” said Sean Eldridge, the president of Stand Up America, a progressive voting rights group. ”If Senate Republicans gave a damn about the future of our democracy, they would demand that the Trump administration return to the negotiating table on a Covid-19 relief bill that protects our elections and funds the Post Office.”

The president and first lady Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots to be sent to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

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