The Postal Service has warned states that it may not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots, further fueling the clash over the new postmaster general’s handling of vote-by-mail operations as President Trump continues to rail against the practice.
In letters sent in July to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Thomas J. Marshall, the general counsel for the Postal Service, told most of them that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”
As many states turn to vote-by-mail operations to carry out elections safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Marshall urged those with tight schedules to require that residents request ballots at least 15 days before an election — rather than the shorter periods currently allowed under the laws of many states.
“This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted,” Mr. Marshall wrote.
Many states have long allowed voters to request a mail ballot close to the election, but the Postal Service suggested that the large volume of voting by mail at a time of widespread delivery delays meant that states would be better off building more time into their systems.
Mr. Marshall said Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Rhode Island should not have any trouble, based on their laws, while he requested more information from Vermont and Washington, D.C. The other 45 states, he told them in the letters, face the risk that the timetables set by their laws could leave some voters unable to get their ballots postmarked by Election Day or received by election boards in time to be counted.
In response to the warning letters, some states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, have called for extensions on counting late-arriving ballots in the November election.