Michigan is among dozens of states that recently received letters from the U.S. Postal Service, warning of possible mail-in voter disenfranchisement.
The agency says it could not guarantee all absentee ballots cast in the November election would arrive in time to be counted. And the risk of disenfranchisement appears even more pronounced in metro Detroit, which has been disproportionately impacted by a new decision to reduce sorting capacity, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
In all, 40 states received "heightened warnings" that their absentee deadlines are "incongruous" with mail service, The Post reports.
The Detroit News broke down the meaning of "incongruous" in a Thursday story on the letter, sent by the postal service's Thomas J. Marshall to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson last month:
Marshall's letter was in large part a warning ahead of the Nov. 3 election that Michigan voters still in possession of their absentee ballots a week or more before the election should deliver their ballots in person.
He noted most first-class mail is delivered two to five days after it's received by the Postal Service, and most pieces sent by the nonprofit marketing-mail rate are delivered three to 10 days after they're received at the Post Office.
To account for these delivery standards and other unforeseen events, Marshall said voters should submit their ballot requests early enough to be received by election officials at a minimum of 15 days before the election.
Voters should "generally" mail their completed ballots at least a week before the state's due date, so they should be mailed by voters no later than Oct. 27, Marshall advised.
Separately, sorting capacity at a Pontiac facility has been reduced by nearly 400,000 piece of mail per hour — raising the specter of an additional slowdown as the mail system prepares for an absentee ballot crunch amid the coronavirus pandemic. In all, 10 percent of USPS' mail-sorting machines are to be decommissioned, mostly in densely populated areas.
Problems have already been reported locally. In Detroit, the Free Press reports that some residents who mailed in ballots say a tracking website does not show them as having been accepted or received. Across the state, about 10,000 ballots weren't received in time to be counted, according to Benson's office.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan has reportedly launched an investigation into the delays.