Judge orders USPS to accelerate ballot delivery in Wisconsin

    Stacks of boxes holding mail are seen at a U.S. Post Office sorting center. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
    Stacks of boxes holding mail are seen at a U.S. Post Office sorting center. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

    A U.S. district court judge in Washington ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Friday to speed up the delivery of ballots ahead of Tuesday’s general election.

    The order comes just days after a U.S. House investigation found that USPS mail delivery timeliness has declined in the last several months, leading to significant mail delays. 

    In joining the federal lawsuit that led to the order, Attorney General Josh Kaul said President Donald Trump is to blame for the Postal Service changes, calling them a ploy to “sabotage fair elections.” Wisconsin joined the lawsuit together with Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Michigan, 

    “The Trump administration’s attack on the USPS shortly before an election in which record-breaking use of mail-in voting will take place must be stopped,” Kaul said when the lawsuit was filed in August.

    Judge Stanley Bastian ordered the postal service to accelerate service after the 13 plaintiff states held a status conference with USPS. 

    The USPS is required to accelerate delivery in the Lakeland district in Wisconsin as well as Detroit, where delays have been particularly serious. 

    “The slowdown of mail delivery in our state – especially in Detroit – has had a dramatic negative impact on the timely delivery of absentee ballots,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a news release about the order. “This has been a serious impediment to voters who have made the effort to request, receive, vote and return their absentee ballots.” 

    The order applies to USPS facilities and processing centers. It states:

    • If USPS identifies any incoming ballots in its “all clear” processes in these facilities from the date of this order through Election Day, it shall make every effort to deliver those ballots by 8:00 PM local time on Election Day as required by Michigan and Wisconsin law, including by using Priority Mail Express and/or other extraordinary measures.
    • If USPS identifies any outgoing ballots in its “all clear” processes in these facilities between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, it shall make every effort to deliver those ballots to voters on or before Nov. 2, 2020, including by using Priority Mail Express or other extraordinary measures.

    Plaintiffs, including Attorney General Josh Kaul, will get “reasonable access” to USPS facilities for compliance purposes, according to the order. 

    Early in-person voting has ended in Wisconsin. Voters who have not yet cast their ballots should drop them off with a local elections clerk or in a drop box, or vote in person on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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    C.J. Moore
    C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.