A U.S. district court judge in Washington has ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to speed up the delivery of ballots in the agency’s Detroit district ahead of Tuesday’s general election.

The order comes just days after a U.S. House investigation found that USPS mail delivery timeliness in Detroit has declined in the last several months, leading to some of the most significant mail delays in the nation. 

For instance, the Advance reported this week that Detroit region delivery rates that stood at 93.7% in mid-February fell to just 71.6% by Oct. 10, according to data from the investigation.

Judge Stanley Bastian ordered the agency to accelerate service after a coalition of 13 plaintiff states held a status conference with USPS. 

House Dem report: Detroit region facing big delays in mail delivery

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is part of the coalition, which filed a lawsuit against the USPS in August following mail service slowdowns.

The USPS will also be required to accelerate delivery in their Lakeland district in Wisconsin. 

“The slowdown of mail delivery in our state – especially in Detroit – has had a dramatic negative impact on the timely delivery of absentee ballots,” Nessel said in a news release about the order. “This has been a serious impediment to voters who have made the effort to request, receive, vote and return their absentee ballots.” 

Nessel called the order an important step, but only a temporary fix to an “ongoing problem.”

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The order applies to USPS facilities and processing centers in Detroit. It states:

  • That if the USPS identifies any incoming ballots in its “all clear” processes in facilities from Friday through Tuesday [Election Day], it has to make every effort to deliver those ballots by 8 p.m. local time on Election Day as required by Michigan law, including by using Priority Mail Express or other measures.
  • That if the USPS identifies any outgoing ballots in its “all clear” processes in these facilities between Friday and Sunday, it has to make every effort to deliver those ballots to voters on or before Monday, including by using Priority Mail Express or other measures.

Attorneys with Nessel’s office will get “reasonable access” to USPS facilities for compliance purposes, according to the order. 

Nessel also urged voters to check Michigan.gov/vote to make sure their ballots have been received.

If not, voters should go to their local election clerk’s office on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday to cancel their absentee ballot so they can instead get a new ballot and vote in-person, she said.

“At this point, you should not use the mail to deliver your absentee ballot because, even with this order, we simply cannot be assured it will get through the mail on time to be counted,” Nessel said. “Every Michigan voter should ensure their voice is heard and their ballot counts. Drop off your absentee ballot in person or go to the polls on Nov. 3.”

C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.