Mail Delays Threaten Late Arrival Of Runoff Ballots In Atlanta

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 13: A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) worker wears a mask and gloves amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 13, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. The US Postal Service (USPS) is losing a... SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 13: A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) worker wears a mask and gloves amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 13, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. The US Postal Service (USPS) is losing around $2 billion per month due to a loss of mail marketing as the spread of COVID-19 continues. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 5, 2021 8:01 a.m.

Mail delays in Atlanta are threatening to disenfranchise thousands of voters who mailed ballots in the all-important Senate runoffs in Georgia this week, NBCLX reported late Monday.

The publication said that delays in the state’s capital are well below US Postal Service standards, even though Postmaster Louis DeJoy had promised to address the mail slowdown months ago in preparation for November’s general election.

DeJoy came under fire over the summer for changes to the mail service that appeared to exacerbate sluggish delivery times, just as the voters prepared to send the highest number of ballots cast by mail in the nation’s history in November. According to NBCLX, the most recent USPS filings in federal court show that mail delivery has gotten worse since then — with 76% of ballots in the Atlanta processing on-time, as of Dec. 21. The slowdown means that close to a quarter of ballots have been delayed for a region that covers the northern half of the Peach State.

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The slow mail delivery also suggests that ballots mailed close to the state’s Jan. 1 deadline for mailing absentee ballots may not make it to elections offices before the Jan. 5 deadline for absentee ballots to be received to count. The election will likely be close and is set to determine which party controls the Senate. 

The state reported more than 38,000 mail ballots received by local elections officials over the weekend.

The USPS’ Gulf Atlantic region covering the southern half of Georgia performed well above Atlanta, but on-time performance for first-class mail dropped across both regions, taking a nosedive from 87% in Atlanta in mid-November to just 60% in mid-December, NBCLX pointed out. 

The USPS had agreed to treat all ballots as Priority Express mail, which usually gets delivered within one day.

But an increase in mail last month amid the holidays appeared to further complicate those efforts.

A USPS spokesperson told NBCLX that a deluge of December mail had affected “scores of all products,” but maintained that “Election Mail and ballots have always been prioritized and are performing well above other product lines.”

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