A federal judge in Washington, D.C., said on Wednesday that the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must testify in court or be deposed to account for a failure to “sweep” facilities for ballots, as the judge ordered on Tuesday.
“In no uncertain terms, I’m not pleased about this 11th-hour development last night,” Judge Emmet Sullivan said, scolding USPS’s lawyers. “You can tell your clients that — and someone might have a price to pay.” The failure to follow the sweep order, Sullivan said, started “at the top of the food chain” — meaning DeJoy.
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The lawyers representing the USPS admitted that the agency did not follow Sullivan’s orders from election day, saying that “this was not operationally possible to implement in the limited time available.” Sullivan ordered on Tuesday morning that the sweep be conducted at multiple key locations across the country by 3 p.m, but had instructed managers to speed ballots in swing states on Sunday.
According to postal officials, workers only found 13 ballots in the election day sweep. During the hearing, the attorney for the plaintiff, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, received an election protection hotline report that there may be a box of 3,000 ballots in Greensboro, North Carolina, sitting at a processing facility. It is possible that these ballots were not postmarked on time. The USPS has said that they will investigate those ballots.
There were reports of an undelivered 300,000 ballots on Tuesday, but, because the USPS was delivering ballots directly to election officials and not scanning each one at processing facilities, these claims were debunked.
At the hearing Wednesday, Sullivan also ordered an additional sweep in Texas in particular, as the deadline for mail-in ballot delivery was 5 p.m. Wednesday.
It’s unclear now how many ballots were not delivered because of the extensive delays in service that began earlier this year under DeJoy. However, as The Hill legal reporter John Kruzel writes on Twitter, “Bottom line: As election law experts have said, every election sees some portion of voters disenfranchised because their ballots arrive late, but it is safe to assume the problem has been exacerbated by USPS delays.”