Postal Service warns Indiana mail-in ballots requested near deadline may not be returned in time

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INDIANAPOLIS – The general counselor for the Postal Service, Thomas J. Marshall, sent a letter to all 50 states and the District of Columbia in July regarding deadlines for mailing ballots. He told most of them, including Indiana, that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson received her letter in early August. It said this “mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”

The letter states there is significant risk that ballots may be requested in a manner consistent with the state’s election rules and returned promptly, and yet not be returned in time to be counted.

The Postal Service is now strongly recommending Indiana and other states to adhere to a time frame when using the mail to transmit ballots to voters.

In the letter, the Postal Service states voters should submit their mail-in ballot application early enough for election officials to receive it at least 15 days before Election Day at a minimum, and preferably long before that time. Right now, Indiana says an application to request a vote-by-mail ballot must be received no later than 12 days before the election.

Current rules in Indiana say county election officials must receive an absentee-by-mail ballot no later than noon on November 3. USPS suggests voters should mail their completed ballots at least one week before the state’s due date. That would be Tuesday, October 27 for Indiana voters.

A spokesperson for Secretary Lawson passed on FOX59’s offer for an interview and would not provide a statement on this letter.

Democrats are requesting $25 billion for the United States Postal Service, including $3.5 billion for mail-in voting. On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the House to return to vote on the “Delivering for America Act,” which prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020.

“Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the president’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the top Trump mega-donors, has proven a complicit crony as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and – according to the Postal Service itself – threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion,” she wrote in her message to Democratic colleagues on Sunday.  

U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN) called this a “manufactured crisis” by Speaker Pelosi. He said there is no reason the Postal Service can not deliver mail-in balloting without an extra $25 billion.

“Money does not matter right now because this is a structural problem,” he said.

Rep. Bucshon said Congress has been bailing out the Postal Service during the 10 years he has served as an elected official. He did not point the blame at USPS but noted the decline in first class mail as fewer people send letters than before.

“We are negotiating to help the American people,” Rep. Bucshon said. “They want to bail out a federal agency or a quasi federal agency so they can mail ballots to every address in America. Anyone who does mass mailings knows that is a disaster.”

On Friday, President Trump said he would accept Democrats’ request for $25 billion for USPS, including billions for mail-in voting, if they concede to some of his concessions.

“Sure, if they give us what we want,” the president said during a press conference. “And it’s not what I want, it’s what the American people want.”

Trump added in his Friday briefing that he had directed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to ready direct payments, in as much as $3,400 for a family of four “to all Americans,” but said that “Democrats are holding this up.”

President Trump has been a big opponent of universal mail-in voting for months. He has said he supports absentee voting but believes universal mail-in voting will be the “greatest fraud in the history of elections.”

The president slammed the practice during a press conference over the weekend.

“If you look at what happened in New York and Virginia and various other places, it is going to be a catastrophe. They are losing 20% of the vote,” he said. “Nobody knows what is happening.”

Douglas Brown, the Indiana State President of American Postal Workers Union, argues it is crucial that the Postal Service gets some sort of funding.

“If we do not do something soon, the Postal Service is in real trouble,” Brown said.

Brown explained the pandemic caused mail volumes to fall and is making the Postal Service struggle to make ends meet. He said USPS is in need of funds to continue operating at a level that it is used to doing.

“Indiana saw a primary this year where large numbers of people voted by absentee mail. And we anticipate a large influx of mails, and we need to be able to handle that extra volume,” said Brown.

Right now, he said the Postal Service is under orders from the new post master general to not use any overtime or extra trucks. He said these are a result of a lack of funding.

“If overtime is not utilized, the Postal Service is not able to function because we are understaffed in a lot of offices. The overtime is used just to get the job done,” he explained.

Brown said issues, including delays in mail, were a problem before, but they have gotten worse after the orders from the post master general. He said his processing plant in Muncie, Indiana has thousands of pieces delayed.

“What the American Postal Workers Union union would like to see the Postal Service do is give priority handling to election ballots. Those ballots are mailed at a rate 20 cents, which is a bulk mail rate. It is not a first class product. If that mail is set aside and processed after the first class mail, we can have a real potential for delayed ballots,” Brown said.

On Monday, Trump wrote several posts on Twitter about the U.S. Post Office.

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