WASHINGTON (CN) — Days out from a presidential election turned on its head by the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge in Washington is closely tracking to make sure the United States Postal Service follows his order to deliver mail-in ballots without delay.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan earlier this month found it was in the public interest to block USPS policies that may have caused mail delays beginning in July. The agency said last week that over 100 million mail-in ballots have already been delivered to and cast by voters in an election already showing record-breaking turnout, with the risk of Covid-19 exposure at the polls increasing voting by mail.
Sullivan granted a preliminary injunction blocking policies that plaintiffs, including the NAACP and the advocacy group Vote Forward, argued prohibited “late trips” and “extra trips” for postal workers and disenfranchised voters of color.
USPS had told the court they were “not banned” but continued at a “reduced level” since summer, under the policies rolled out just one month after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took over the agency.
The judge is now keeping a close eye on DeJoy’s operations on the eve of the election.
A Clinton appointee, who served on other D.C. courts appointed by Republican presidents, Sullivan has directed the USPS to report to him on a daily basis in the lead up to Election Day.
In a detailed docket order on Friday, he told USPS to follow its own purported “extraordinary measures” to ensure election mail is delivered in a timely fashion, a plan largely agreed on between the agency and those suing it.
Sullivan ordered the government to implement the measures to speed up delivery from collection boxes and postal offices to election officials in nearly two dozen USPS districts that have fallen below the 90% on-time target for delivered ballots for at least two days from Oct. 26 to 28.
The directive applies to delivery in several battleground states including Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and encompasses around one-third of the entire USPS operations.
It follows a Tuesday order from Sullivan for USPS employees to carry out as many late and extra trips necessary to increase on-time election mail deliveries.
“To be clear, late and extra trips should be performed to the same or greater degree than they were performed prior to July 2020 when doing so would increase on-time mail deliveries. Any prior communication that is inconsistent with this instruction should be disregarded,” the judge wrote.
In the added meticulous guidance Friday, the judge also ordered the government to file daily updates “on the absolute number of inbound ballots and outbound ballots captured in the election mail,” as well as Excel spreadsheets outlining performance data.
He further instructed USPS to make an agency expert available to the court and parties suing USPS to decipher the data scores for election mail delivery. This week’s orders built on instructions Sullivan provided the government in his initial ruling.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.