At the end of July, the U.S. Postal Service sent letters to 46 states including Minnesota warning that it may not process all ballots for the November election in time for them to be counted, the Washington Post reported Friday.
It's one of the latest revelations in national reporting on turmoil within U.S.P.S. as the the country continues to struggle to contain the coronavirus, prompting unprecedented numbers of voters to vote by mail, amid funding woes at the postal service.
Thirty one of the states, including Minnesota, were advised in the letter that voters should mail ballots no later than Oct. 27 to guarantee they are counted on time. Election Day is Nov. 3.
"This really doesn’t fundamentally alter what we have been saying and will continue to say for the next 180 days," Secretary of State Steve Simon told BMTN.
The SOS is encouraging voters to request ballots as early as possible via the state office's website, mnvotes.org.
"Order it now, don't wait til October," Simon said. "As soon as you are comfortable, just get it back."
In Minnesota, voters can drop off completed ballots at their local elections office — an alternative Simon said his office will be encouraging with a heavier marketing presence as the election approaches. Voters are also permitted to have someone else drop off their ballot for them.
This is particularly a good idea if voters are trying to ensure their ballot gets counted and Election Day is less than 20 days away, Simon said.
"I sure hope this letter that so many states received is not part of some coordinated strategy to dissuade people from voting from home. I can't say whether it is or isn't," Simon said. "Over the next 180 days, we're going to be making sure people know their options."
He added that in addition to the normal appeals of comfort and convenience, voting by mail also helps keep polling places safer for those who do vote in person, as well as poll workers.
Vice News reported Friday that U.S.P.S. has plans to remove 15 percent — 502 total — of its letter sorting machines nationwide. Later Friday, the Washington Post said it obtained a grievance filed by the American Postal Workers Union showing that since June, 671 machines have already been removed — with a concentration in high-population areas.
These machines have the capacity to sort 21.4 million pieces of paper mail per hour, and their removal has sparked accusations that the Trump Administration is seeking to undermine the integrity of the U.S.P.S. in an effort to secure the president's re-election.
An analysis from the Washington Post shows that in the Twin Cities, enough machines have been removed to reduce sorting capacity by 200,000 to 300,000 pieces of mail per hour. The areas hardest hit, with capacity reduced by 300,000 or more, are Los Angeles, Houston, Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia.
An analysis published Wednesday from St. Paul-based APM Reports and Wisconsin Watch shows that between April 1 and June 30, USPS deliveries have been failing to meet on-time service goals handling first-class mail in five battleground states: Pennsyvlania, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
Nationwide, over half of the postal service's 61 districts failed to meet any first-class mail delivery goals, the news organizations found, providing more details on the hundreds of requested absentee ballots that didn't make it to voters on time for the 2020 Wisconsin primary.
The American Postal Workers Union and a spokesperson for the USPS told the Washington Post that with planning, it expects to be able to deliver the election mail on time.
USPS spokesperson Martha Johnson told the Washington Post that the letters followed state primaries with delivery issues nationwide, which “presented a need to ensure the Postal Service’s recommendations were reemphasized to elections officials.”
More information about voting options can be found at the Minnesota Secretary of State website.