After unprocessed ballots were found at a South Miami-Dade postal facility last week, the U.S. Postal Service is facing increased scrutiny to ensure all mail-in ballots are turned into election supervisors by Tuesday’s 7 p.m. deadline.
Here is what USPS says it’s planning to do to expedite ballots that postal workers may encounter on Election Day.
According to an internal document dated Oct. 20 and obtained by the Miami Herald, USPS is establishing local hub-and-spoke networks that will see letter carriers rendezvous at pre-selected locations to drop off ballots found in the course of their routes Tuesday.
The USPS will be staging drivers and vehicles at spoke locations, where they will coordinate with supervisors to pick up ballots and bring them to the nearest elections department office.
The document also advises that local post offices establish separate queuing lines for individuals looking to drop off ballots in person Tuesday, as well as drive-through ballot postmark and/or drop options to be staffed through Election Day.
A source familiar with the document said the plans laid out in it had not changed since it was released. Letter carriers are also being asked to text their supervisors as soon as they encounter a ballot, the source said.
A USPS representative declined to provide additional comment.
Monday afternoon, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department said voters could drop off mail-in ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at either the Elections Department in Doral; the Stephen P. Clark Government Center; North Dade Regional Library; or the South Dade Regional Library.
Court-ordered USPS data published Monday indicate that as recently as Saturday, the South Florida USPS district was seeing just 80% of outbound ballots destined for voters delivered on time; for ballots inbound to elections officials, the rate was 85%. Experts say any rate less than 90% is considered concerning.
On Friday night, agents discovered 48 ballots in the Princeton post office near Homestead after State Rep. Kionne McGhee tweeted a video that showed a backlog of undelivered mail piling up at the facility. McGhee said the video was shared with him anonymously by a concerned USPS employee.
A USPS Office of Inspector General official said 42 of the undelivered ballots had not yet been delivered to voters. Twenty-four of those were delivered to voters Saturday, election officials said, while the others belonged to people who had already voted early in-person or with replacement mail ballots. Another six ballots had already been filled out and were brought to the elections department. On Monday, court documents showed that 15 additional ballots were found over the weekend.
On Friday evening, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle called on the USPS to search every mail distribution center in the county for undelivered ballots, and for those ballots to be brought immediately to the Miami-Dade Elections Department ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
More than 479,000 residents of Miami-Dade County had voted by mail as of Sunday, shattering previous records.