Approximately 500 mail-in ballots in Detroit were never delivered to voters, according to the U.S. Postal Service and Detroit’s city clerk, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports “potentially thousands” of ballots in Butler County, Pennsylvania, haven’t been delivered, exacerbating fears about mail-in voting in key battleground states.
A supporter holds his sealed voting ballot as Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala … [+] Harris (D-CA) speaks at a campaign stop at Northwest Activities Center on October 25, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey told ABC affiliate WXYZ that approximately 500 ballots she sent out to voters were never delivered, and USPS officials told the city clerk they “can’t be found,” even after sweeping their facilities.
Winfrey said that affected voters can have their ballot spoiled and have another ballot issued to them at one of Detroit’s local voting centers.
USPS said in a statement that it “has been made aware of a number of ballots that have not been delivered as anticipated and is researching the issue,” and is working with Winfrey to correct the issue and deliver new ballots.
The Post-Gazette reports that only 24% of the nearly 40,000 mail-in ballots requested in Butler County have been returned, apparently because many were never delivered.
While it’s unclear how many Butler County ballots were never delivered, Leslie Osche, chair of the Butler County commissioners, said the number of lost ballots “could be in the thousands.”
The county is sending new ballots out to voters and has asked the USPS to investigate the issue, and the USPS said it was “unaware of any significant delays or issues” but is working with the Board of Election.
“At first we thought that maybe it just was a delay in the postal system…And that could still be the case,” Osche told local outlet KDKA-TV. “Our main focus—because it’s too late now to worry about this—we need to make sure we get these people their ballots.”
52.6%. That’s the percentage of first class mail that was delivered on time in Detroit on Tuesday, according to service data filed by the USPS in federal court. The agency noted that the daily data, which they were ordered by the court to report, is an unreliable indicator of the agency’s performance—as delivery rates normally fluctuate each day—and service data for ballot delivery nationwide has recently been far higher than first class mail overall. Past service data has consistently shown that Detroit is experiencing some of the worst mail delivery rates in the country, however: only 70.9% of first class mail was delivered on time in the week ending Oct. 9 and 71.6% was delivered on time the week of Oct. 16, as compared with nationwide averages of 86.15% and 85.6%, respectively.
Mail-in voting has been a consistent source of concern ahead of the November election, as the Covid-19 pandemic has made the voting method more essential and ongoing mail delays at the USPS have exacerbated worries that ballots won’t arrive on time. Voters across the country have expressed concerns about not receiving their ballots yet, and in addition to widespread incidents as in Detroit and Pennsylvania, there have been isolated incidents of voters having issues: Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, for instance, shared on social media that his absentee ballot in Texas was never “found or delivered,” despite showing that it had been sent out on Oct. 8. (USPS has said delivering election mail is its “number one priority” and devoted additional resources to ensure ballots are delivered on time.) Voters who request a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in person instead—whether because they haven’t received their ballot or otherwise—can do so in most states, though in some states voters may have to cast a provisional ballot, which can take longer to count. State officials across the country are encouraging voters who haven’t returned their mail-in ballots yet to return them using a ballot drop box or to an election office or polling place to ensure it arrives in time.