Ahead of a presidential election that could see up to half of United States voters cast their ballots by mail, the US Postal Service (USPS) is warning some states that they need to provide more time for those votes to be counted.
The USPS has told at least five states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Missouri and Washington – that there is “significant risk” voters will not have enough time to complete their ballots and return them on time under current state laws, according to correspondence seen by Reuters.
The Washington Post newspaper reported that the postal service has warned a total of 46 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The letters highlight the possibility that a meaningful number of mail votes in the November 3 presidential election might go uncounted if they are returned too late.
“State and local election officials must understand and take into account our operational standards and recommended timelines,” USPS spokeswoman Martha Johnson said. She did not respond to questions about how many states in total got warning letters.
Election officials are bracing for a deluge of mail ballots as many states have made it easier to vote by mail to address concerns about public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican President Donald Trump said Thursday that he opposes additional funding to make mail voting easier.
Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls, has said without evidence that widespread mail voting could lead to fraud. However, public records show that he has requested mail ballots for himself and his wife Melania ahead of Florida’s Tuesday primary election.
Election experts say mail voting is as secure as any other method. Biden and other Democrats say Trump is trying to interfere with the election, and former Democratic President Barack Obama said he was worried that Trump was trying to “kneecap” the postal service.
If you're in a state where you have the option to vote early, do that now. The more votes in early, the less likely you're going to see a last minute crunch, both at polling places and in states where mail-in ballots are permitted. Then tell everyone you know.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2020
The issue has taken on added urgency in recent weeks, as cost-cutting measures put in place by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have led to widespread mail delays.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said on Friday that the changes could violate state laws against election tampering. She called for a criminal investigation.