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Federal Judge Orders USPS to Conduct Election Day ‘Sweeps’ to Ensure Ballot Delivery Is Not Delayed in Key Battleground States

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, primarily known recently for his handling of the Michael Flynn case, issued an order mid-day Tuesday, directing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to sweep its processing facilities from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Election Day, to ensure that delivery of ballots is not delayed.

Tuesday’s order comes as part of ongoing litigation before Judge Sullivan in which the plaintiffs—groups of voters and advocacy groups–argued that delays in the mail system could threaten accurate election results, particularly in the 28 states that do not accept votes that arrive after Election Day. Prior to Judge Sullivan’s rulings in the case, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy had taken steps to cut hours from postal staff. Later, those steps were prohibited as a series of court orders took effect.

USPS personnel had been instructed “to perform late and extra trips to the maximum extent necessary to increase on-time mail deliveries, particularly for Election Mail,” and to send the court daily updates on the number of trips and on-time deliveries. Judge Sullivan also ordered a daily check-in via videoconference, the result of which was a new order on Election Day.

The order applies to postal facilities in “Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Colorado/Wyoming, Atlanta, Houston, Alabama, Northern New England, Greater South Carolina, South Florida, Lakeland, and Arizona.”

Postal inspectors were required to file a status update by 4:30 p.m. EST on Election Day, certifying compliance with the judge’s order and indicating that no ballots were left behind.

Reactions to Judge Sullivan’s “common sense order” have been swift and strong.

[Image via U.S. District Court for District of Columbia]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos