By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – A judge on Thursday ordered twice daily sweeps at U.S. Postal Service (USPS) facilities serving states with extended ballot receipt deadlines as votes were still being counted in U.S. election battleground states.
Some states, including still undecided Nevada and North Carolina, are counting ballots that are received after Election Day Tuesday. Plaintiffs lawyers in a lawsuit said the Postal Service delivered roughly 150,000 ballots nationwide on Wednesday. Of those, roughly 8,000 or 9,000, were delivered after Tuesday even though they had been mailed by Sunday.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the processing centers must perform morning sweeps and then afternoon sweeps “to ensure that any identified local ballots can be delivered that day.”
USPS must report to headquarters “the total number of ballots identified and confirm that those ballots have been expedited for delivery to meet applicable extended state deadlines,” Sullivan added in an order.
Sullivan has been urging USPS to take all possible steps to ensure ballots are delivered before deadlines. He ordered the sweeps in response to lawsuits by groups including Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates.
“The pressing issues are where are the ballots and how do we get them delivered so they can be counted,” Sullivan said on Wednesday.
Ballots were still being counted by election officials in battleground states two days after polls closed in one of the most unusual elections in U.S. history because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Democratic candidate Joe Biden was cutting into Republican President Donald Trump’s leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia but retained slim margins in Nevada and Arizona.
USPS is using priority mail networks through Saturday to deliver any remaining ballots.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Grant McCool)