Virginia Democrats sue USPS for delays that threaten to ‘disenfranchise’ voters

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The United States Postal Service logo is seen on a mailbox outside a post office in Los Angeles, California, August 17, 2020. – The United States Postal Service is popularly known for delivering mail despite snow, rain or heat, but it faces a new foe in President Donald Trump. Ahead of the November 3 elections in which millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail due to the coronavirus, Trump has leveled an unprecedented attack at the USPS, opposing efforts to give the cash-strapped agency more money as part of a big new virus-related stimulus package, even as changes there have caused delays in mail delivery. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

(The Hill) —The Virginia Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the United States Postal Service (USPS) on Friday for allegedly failing to process and deliver election-related mail on time, contending the delays are “threatening to disenfranchise” thousands of voters ahead of next month’s contentious gubernatorial election.

The lawsuit argues that while problems are being observed throughout the commonwealth, the “significant delay in election mail” in Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City counties is “particularly egregious.”

The party is alleging that thousands of ballots delivered to postal facilities by general registrars in those counties are “still outstanding” and have yet to be scanned into USPS’s system.

The plaintiffs said these delays are causing uncertainty regarding whether ballots can be returned in time to be counted.

“Even if these voters do eventually receive their ballots before Election Day, the slowdowns promise that they will not have sufficient time to send them back with assurance that they will arrive in time to be counted,” the lawsuit reads.

“And even if a ballot reaches the appropriate election official before the receipt deadline, if the official identifies any issues with it that require remediation before it may be counted, the voters will have run out of time to rectify the problem,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit — which names Frank Veal, the USPS South Atlantic division director, and Gerald Roane, the USPS Virginia district manager, as plaintiffs — comes less than two weeks before Virginians are scheduled to head to the polls and vote for the next governor of the commonwealth.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is running to secure a second term as chief of the Old Dominion against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin. The election is set for Nov. 2.

Recent polls have shown the candidates in a dead heat, in a race seen as a potential harbinger for next year’s midterm elections in other battleground states.

Virginians had until Friday to request a mail-in ballot for the race, which must be postmarked on or before Nov. 2 and received by the registrar by noon on the third day after the election.

USPS told The Hill in a statement on Sunday that it is not aware of any ballot processing or delivery delays.

“We are not aware of any processing delays of any ballots within our facilities nor any ballot delivery delays, and we have fully communicated this information to election officials,” a USPS spokesperson said.

“Throughout the election cycle, we work closely with state and local election officials and have been addressing any concerns that they raise. Daily sweeps are being conducted in all our Virginia facilities,” the spokesperson added.

The agency said it is “fully committed to fulfilling our important role in the electoral process as a secure, efficient and effective way for citizens to participate when policymakers decide to use mail as part of their election system.”

The Virginia Democratic Party wrote in its lawsuit that based on data from the state Department of Elections, as of Oct. 19 thousands of ballots were “just sitting, unscanned in USPS facilities in Albemarle, James City, and Portsmouth Counties.”

The party said those ballots make up more than a quarter of all ballots voters in those jurisdictions requested.

The Hill reached out to the three counties for comment.

The lawsuit comes amid a year of intense scrutiny on the USPS before and after the 2020 presidential election, when the agency had a weak mail-in ballot delivery rate, according to data reported by CNBC in November.

Elections across the country have seen a large number of mail-in ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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