A U.S. district judge has ordered several United States Postal Service (USPS) facilities to perform twice-daily sweeps of their grounds to ensure that every ballot sent before Election Day this year arrives at its proper destination.
The order will ensure that states like North Carolina, Nevada and Pennsylvania, which count ballots if they were mailed before Election Day but arrived late, to legally count as many votes as possible and prevent further delays in delivery.
The order, issued by Judge Emmet Sullivan on Thursday, comes one day after he scolded USPS lawyers for failing to thoroughly account for all ballots earlier this week in a number of locations across the U.S.
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“In no uncertain terms, I’m not pleased about this 11th-hour development last night,” Sullivan said in his order on Wednesday. “You can tell your clients that — and someone might have a price to pay.”
Sullivan also ordered Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify in court regarding the failure to follow the judge’s previous orders. Sullivan had sought to “ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery” to be included in election totals.
Sullivan’s insistence on sweeping a number of USPS facilities came after voting rights’ groups discovered hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots had been scanned into facilities but had not been scanned out of them. Lawyers for USPS argue that the lack of an outgoing scan doesn’t necessarily mean some ballots were not sent out, but rather that they were taken from facilities without a scan to ensure a speedier delivery.
On Thursday, plaintiffs returned to court to argue that the USPS was late in delivering ballots to Pennsylvania and Georgia, two states where President Donald Trump is currently in the lead in vote counts for the presidential election, but where continued counting could tip the scales in favor of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
There were “potentially thousands [of ballots] in PA, dozens in *Atlanta* arriving late,” according to reporter Scott MacFarlane. “Large numbers of ballots put in [the] mail Sunday” were only delivered Wednesday by USPS, MacFarlane added.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots have been delivered, according to attorneys from Vote Forward, “including 604 ballots in Atlanta and 7K in Pennsylvania,” Courthouse News’s Megan Mineiro reported.
Of those, about 136 ballots in Atlanta and around 1,400 in Pennsylvania were not processed in time, Mineiro added. Ballots were dropped off over the weekend but had failed to arrive until Wednesday.
The twice-daily sweeps ordered by Sullivan will remain in place to allow for receipt of ballots in states where extended ballot receipt deadlines are active.