US elections

Presidential elections 2020: why could postal votes be affected after USPS warning?

The United States Postal Service has warned several states there is a "significant risk" of mail-in ballots not being delivered on time during the election.

Presidential elections 2020: why could postal votes be affected after USPS warning?
SPENCER PLATT AFP

US President Donald Trump’s campaign against mail-in voting for the presidential elections has taken a new twist after the US Postal Service (USPS) admitted that due to recent changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican Party fundraiser, there is a "significant risk" that postal votes will not be returned on time as Trump takes on Democratic challenger Joe Biden on 3 November. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic in the US, it is anticipated that up to half of all voters will cast their ballots by mail to avoid polling stations. According to a poll run by Axios/ Survey Monkey 80 percent of “conservative or very conservative Republicans” intend to vote in person compared to just 33 percent of “liberal or very liberal Democrats.”

Trump: mail ballots will lead to "most fraudulent election in history"

Trump has made unfounded claims that mail-in ballots will lead to the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history during the elections. The White House incumbent is trailing Biden in opinion polls and on Thursday told Fox Business News that the USPS and mail-in voting were the two main stumbling blocks to breaking the impasse between Democrats and Republicans over a new stimulus package.

"The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting," Trump said, adding that Democrats want to give the post office $25 billion. "If we don't make the deal, that means they can't have the money, that means they can't have universal mail-in voting. It just can't happen."

Obama: Trump "more concerned with suppressing vote than virus"

Biden and other Democrats have accused Trump of trying to discourage mail voting in order to boost his re-election chances. Barack Obama accused the Trump administration of being “more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.”

Earlier this month Trump's re-election campaign and the national Republican Party sued the state of Nevada in an attempt to block a new law that will send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter ahead of November's election. The president described the plan by the state's Democratic governor was a "catastrophe waiting to happen."

The USPS reported losses $2.2 billion in the last financial quarter, leading DeJoy to introduce operational changes and a clampdown on overtime in a bid to fix the financially troubled service.

The changes include scaled back retail hours and orders for delivery trucks to leave on time even if mail is still being loaded. They have led to delays across the country, workers and political leaders say.

USPS warns 46 states over postal vote delays

The Postal Service has told at least five states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Missouri and Washington -- there is "significant risk" voters will not have enough time to complete ballots and return them under current state laws, according to correspondence seen by Reuters.

The letters highlight the possibility that a meaningful number of mail votes in the presidential election might go uncounted if they are returned too late.

The Washington Post reported that the Postal Service has warned a total of 46 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"State and local election officials must understand and take into account our operational standards and recommended timelines," Postal Service spokeswoman Martha Johnson said. She did not respond to a question about how many states in total got warning letters.

USPS to investigate service disruptions

Meanwhile, the US Postal Service Office of Inspector General confirmed it is investigating reports of service disruptions and other issues raised by lawmakers, a spokeswoman for Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Friday.

"We have learned that the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General is investigating all aspects of our request from August 7th and that they've already requested documents as part of the review," spokeswoman Shaloni Sharma said.

The letter from a number of US lawmakers asked for "a thorough audit of all operational changes put in place in recent weeks to determine the rationale behind these changes, if any analyses of their impact were conducted before implementation, their effect on the quality of mail delivery, and how it will impact services needed for the 2020 election."

DeJoy, who was named as the new Postmaster General by The USPS Board of Governors on 6 May, has reportedly donated $2.7 million to Trump and his fellow Republicans since 2017.