A new cache of local and national data released Wednesday shows a decrease in on-time U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail delivery rates over the last several months, indicating slowdowns that could continue to affect ballot delivery as Tuesday’s general election nears.
National delivery rates for 2020 peaked at almost 94% in the week ending Feb. 15. Rates are shown to have dropped to about 85.6% by Oct. 10, according to the data.
In the Great Lakes area, there was a similar drop-off: A 93% delivery rate that existed in mid-February had fallen to about 83.3% by Oct. 10. On-time delivery rates also consistently remained below 90% in the weeks after July 4 and dipped to just 78.1% in the week ending Sept. 19.
The USPS slowdowns come as more and more Americans turn to mail-in voting in order to avoid COVID-19 health risks posed by voting in-person on Election Day.
Election officials, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, have turned to urging voters to deliver their absentee ballots in person or drop them off in their local clerk’s ballot drop box instead of sending them through USPS.
The data was released by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and by U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs the House Governmental Operations Subcommittee.
In a news release, Connolly took a shot at Louis DeJoy, the USPS postmaster general, who has been criticized in recent months for cost-cutting measures implemented after he took control of the agency in June.
The USPS Office of Inspector General — an independent watchdog of the agency — also recently released a report that determined DeJoy’s changes negatively affected mail delivery timeliness and quality ahead of the nation’s general election.
“The latest Postal Service data confirms our fears that Postmaster General DeJoy’s reckless and unexamined changes undoubtedly resulted in service disruptions right before the election,” Connolly said. “Our Committee’s investigation into this decision and its consequences must continue.”
Maloney, who called the delays “unacceptable,” said Americans shouldn’t rely on USPS to deliver election mail.
“Despite his assurances, the Postmaster General has failed to fix the problems he created and cannot be relied on for the on-time delivery of Election Mail,” she said. “At this point, Americans should either vote in person or drop their ballot in an official drop box to avoid their ballots not being delivered on time.”