New postmaster general Louis DeJoy faced months of accusations from critics who claimed dozens of cost-cutting moves he instituted at the USPS this summer were designed to slow down the mail ahead of the election and help the man who appointed him, President Trump. There was a precipitous drop in first-class letter performance following DeJoy’s takeover, and despite a series of lawsuits that forced the USPS to rollback the reforms ahead of the election, the agency’s performance never fully recovered by Election Day. That meant millions of mail ballots took longer than normal to get to elections offices.
NBCLX analyzed election records – as well as postal records obtained through federal court filings – to find out how many ballots, cast the week before the election, were ultimately rejected.
Because each state collects ballot statistics differently, it’s impossible to know exactly how many ballots arrived after state deadlines or how many of those were due to USPS delays. But records indicate the figure is likely no more than a few thousand votes in any given state – not enough to change the results of a single battleground in 2020.
“All of us, I think, stopped a true disaster from happening,” said Remy Green, a New York attorney who sued President Trump, Postmaster DeJoy, and the USPS over delays this summer. “This could have been so much worse.”
Green’s lawsuit was one of several that forced the USPS to roll back dozens of changes and start disclosing internal performance reports they didn’t want to share. Those reports shed light on how much Election Mail was getting delivered – or held up – each day this fall.
The USPS aims to deliver Election Mail in 1-3 days, with approximately 8% percent of ballots mailed 2-4 days before the election significantly delayed. That likely translates to between 50,000 to 100,000 ballots delivered after Election Day.
Because more than half the states – including most of the key battlegrounds – don’t provide a grace period for ballots that arrive after Election Day, it is likely 25,000-50,000 ballots nationwide were ultimately rejected because of USPS problems. That’s only 1,000 to 2,000 in most states with strict deadlines, and there was no state this year where one candidate’s margin of victory was less than 10,000.