Did the U.S. Postal Service fail to deliver 300,000 mail-in ballots on time for the presidential election? It’s unclear.
The Postal Service failed to meet a court-ordered deadline on Election Day to do a last-minute sweep of ballots in processing facilities in five swing states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered this sweep after the Postal Service revealed a drop in delivery performance in the days leading up to the election, and confirmed that it couldn’t say whether an approximate 300,000 ballots had been delivered on time or not.
Now, the fate of those 300,000 ballots is unclear.
Per USA Today, the postal service provided an update to Sullivan on Wednesday, after failing to meet his deadline. The agency said it was unable to perform this sweep for these ballots because it would have “significantly” impacted the Election Day timeline.
In response to this claim, Sullivan said he needed more clarity on the “300,000 ballot issue,” per reporter John Kruzel of The Hill.
“I’m not pleased about this 11th-hour development last night,” Sullivan told the Postal Service’s lawyer, according to Kruzel. “I’d like you to explain just what the heck happened.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Where Are the 300,000 Ballots? When, if at All, Were They Lost?
According to the Washington Post, the approximately 7% of ballots (amounting to about 300,000 votes) that haven’t been delivered on time made it to Postal Service facilities but didn’t leave them. Specifically, the ballots’ bar codes were recorded and marked at facilities, but those bar codes were not marked as having left the facilities.
This is why Judge Sullivan ordered the sweep, to begin with: It seemed logical that the ballots must still be in the facilities if they were recorded as having entered, but not given an exit scan. And because the Postal Service was not able to conduct a full sweep, as requested, it’s impossible to say whether those ballots are, in fact, all within these facilities.
Many of the 300,000 Ballots Are for Swing States That Will Be Decided by Razor-Thin Margins
As many have already begun to note on Twitter, the 300,000 missing ballots were headed for a number of states currently split by margins in the tens of thousands, or less. If the ballots are found, and processed in the election, they could impact the outcome of the election in any given state.
Florida has been called in favor of President Donald Trump, the Republican on the ballot. The other four states have yet to be called by Heavy’s Election Day partner, Decision Desk HQ, including two, Pennsylvania and Georgia, that show Trump holding on to narrow leads. The other two states show small leads for Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden, Wisconsin and Arizona. Each of those states, if Biden were to hold those leads, would represent a flip from a Trump win in 2016 to a Biden win in 2020.
You can check on the current election results in the following states impacted by the potentially missing 300,000 ballots: