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U.S. Postal Service warns states that mail-in ballots may not be counted in time

The U.S. Postal Service is sending letters to states warning that their mail-in ballots may not be counted in time because their provisions for voting by mail "are incongruous" with post office delivery standards. The U.S. Postal Service confirmed late Friday that letters that indicated concerns about on-time ballots had been sent to 41 states. 

Eight states were informed that their ballot request deadlines are "compatible" with delivery standards and "should allow sufficient times for voters to receive, complete, and return such ballots by the state's Election Day postmarking deadline." 

Vermont and Washington D.C. were sent letters that they have "sufficient time" for voters to receive ballots, but the postal service said it "cannot fully assess" if their planned use of mail aligns with the delivery standards.

The Postal Service faces a financial crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said a week ago that the agency's financial situation is "dire," "stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, a broken business model and a management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues.'' 

DeJoy warned that congressional intervention is needed, and a bipartisan group of senators has been pressing for $25 billion in additional Postal Service funding to keep it afloat. While President Trump had indicated he would not support a financial bailout for the Postal Service, he said Friday he would support it "if they (Democrats) gave us what we want," that is, a payroll tax cut and more loans for small businesses. 

The letters were sent to the secretaries of state from Postal Service general counsel and executive vice president Thomas Marshall and are dated at the end of July. 

While the letters vary slightly from state to state, they warn that states whose ballot request and submission deadlines are "incongruous" with the Postal Service's delivery standards is resulting in a "mismatch" that "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 Postal Service said in a statement, "Some states have reported Election Mail volumes that are 10 times higher than any previous year. The Postal Service is well prepared and has ample capacity to deliver America's election mail. However, the increases in volume and the effect of when volumes were mailed in the primary elections presented a need to ensure the Postal Service's recommendations were reemphasized to elections officials."

Meanwhile, the Postal Service disclosed earlier this week that it lost $2.2 billion between April and June. Officials are warning that the agency could face $20 billion in losses over two years. It also reported a $4.5 billion loss for the first quarter, before the full economic effects of the pandemic were evident.

On Friday, former President Obama told his campaign manager David Plouffe on Plouffe's podcast that Mr. Trump is trying to "actively kneecap the Postal Service" ahead of the election. 

Mr. Trump has frequently repeated the false claim that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud, but he requested a mail ballot in Florida. 

"Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True," Mr. Trump tweeted on August 4. "Florida's Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!"  

The Trump campaign and Republican Party are suing Nevada after officials joined several states that plan to automatically send voters mail ballots. Two other states, California and Vermont, moved to adopt a similar policy. Five other states had already adopted vote-by-mail measures even before the coronavirus pandemic raised safety concerns about voting in person. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for an investigation into changes at the postal service under DeJoy, who was appointed by Mr. Trump. A spokesperson for the inspector general confirmed on Friday that they are "conducting a body of work to address concerns raised. We cannot comment on details of ongoing work" of DeJoy's tenure. 

Musadiq Bidar, Adam Brewster, Sara Cook, Zachary Hudak, Cara Korte, LaCrai Mitchell, Aaron Navarro and Alex Tin contributed reporting.

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