Postal service funding, delays lead to mail-in voting concerns in Georgia

Postal service funding, delays lead to mail-in voting concerns in Georgia - clipped version

ATLANTA — Despite postal service guarantees for a July 30 delivery, Luella Blymore’s heart and blood medication took 12 days longer to arrive to her East Atlanta home.

Blymore never reached out to USPS regarding the delay. Instead, she took some of her husband’s prescriptions and spoke with Kaiser Permanente about shipping additional medication. A Decatur pharmacy also provided her with enough medication to get by for the month.

One of her neighbors said she had been told by the local post office that COVID-related staffing recently took a toll on delivery services.

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The delays, and national controversy surrounding additional USPS funding, already have Blymore thinking about November.

“It’s (here) to serve, and they’ve done that honorably over the years,” she said. “This is not right. It’s just not right.”

Georgia was among 46 states that recently received letters from the USPS general counsel, warning of likely mail-in ballot delays that could disqualify ballots under current state law. Elections officials in several states confirmed receipt of their letters Friday.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr reached out to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office Friday afternoon, where a spokesperson said they had not yet received the warning letter.

On Friday evening, a spokesman for USPS pointed Carr to Freedom of Information Act files, where she found the letter dated July 29. It was written by USPS general counsel Tom Marshall, and addressed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“In particular, we wanted to note that, under our reading of Georgia’s election laws, certain deadlines for requiring and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the postal service’s delivery standards,” Marshall wrote. “This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”

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Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump said he opposes new funding for USPS leading up to the election.

“Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting,” Trump said.

“Pure Trump,” said presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “He doesn’t want an election.”

In a Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee meeting Friday, Rep. Bee Nguyen raised a question about USPS delays, and the possibility for Georgia to explore extensions to accommodate mail-in ballot counting.

“Is the Secretary of State willing to consider an emergency policy to accept ballots that are postmarked by election day and received within five days of the election? Nguyen asked. “Also, is the SOS willing to mandate that we have at least one drop box per county?”

“We can’t extend the deadline to accept ballots,” answered Ryan Germany, general counsel for the Georgia Secretary of State. “That’s the kind of thing that gets you into the problem that New York City is in where they are still counting ballots six weeks after an election. In a presidential election, that doesn’t work based on constitutional deadlines.

“It also doesn’t work in Georgia elections based on deadlines for certification, and now we have to add audits into that as well,” Germany said.

“Pennsylvania just decided they would be counting within five days of the election yesterday,” Nguyen said. “Is that something from the technical standpoint we would be able to do through executive order? Just the ability, not the commitment to do it, she asked.

“I’m not sure,” Germany answered. “The deadline to receive ballots in Georgia—they have to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day—is set by state law.”

The state noted that $9 million of CARES Act money has been spent on absentee ballot efforts and the expansion of drop box grants to counties across the state.

Georgia NAACP President James Woodall said ballots postmarked by Election Day need to be counted.

“We need the state of Georgia to change its policy on counting absentee ballots,” Woodall said Friday. “What we’re asking for is some grace because we do know if people submit their ballots on time, they should be counted. Period.”

Civic and state leaders, including the elections office, stressed the importance of early voting and absentee ballot requests.

The American Postal Workers Local 32 President Stacey Brown referred Carr to the national office for comment on Atlanta-area funding and delays, but offered one comment.

“Vote, vote, vote like your life depends on it,” she said.

Postal Services warns Georgia, 45 other states mail-in ballots might be delayed
U.S. Postal Service warns mail-in ballots might be delayed for 46 states and D.C.