USPS rushes to deliver another 2,000 ballots in Pennsylvania, North Carolina before deadline

Postal workers found more than 1,000 ballots in Philadelphia facilities Thursday and 300 in Pittsburgh, as the Postal Service races to deliver uncounted votes to election officials before a Friday afternoon deadline, according to a filing in U.S. federal court posted just after midnight Friday.

The Postal Service has been ordered by U.S, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to report on the results of twice-daily sweeps for election mail, with a particular emphasis on states that are still accepting ballots postmarked by Election Day. Pennsylvania and North Carolina have still not been called as they await additional ballots to be processed.

President Donald Trump narrowly leads Biden in Pennsylvania, but Biden is expected to overtake him once a large cache of mail-in votes is processed in Philadelphia. Still, 1,000 ballots discovered there, as well as an additional 300 in Pittsburgh, could be critical for the former vice president’s chances. Trump leads by about 77,000 votes in North Carolina.

The Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Charlotte ballots were part of more than 2,000 ballots discovered in dozens of postal facilities across the two states and expedited to election officials, pursuant to Sullivan’s court order.

Though North Carolina has long allowed for late-arriving ballots to be counted, as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day, Pennsylvania’s are still a source of dispute. The state Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania can accept ballots through Friday afternoon — a three-day grace period — but conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have indicated they may wish to overturn that decision since it wasn’t sanctioned by Pennsylvania’s legislature. North Carolina has long allowed an extra three days to receive postmarked ballots but extended the deadline this year to Nov. 12.

Though the high court deadlocked on whether to do that before the election, permitting Pennsylvania’s ruling to stand, they indicated that the matter could be revisited afterward, this time with a strengthened hand thanks to Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the court.

Still, the arrival of more than 2,000 ballots in closely fought states is likely to benefit Biden’s campaign, which has handily won mail-in and absentee ballots across the country. Voters have overwhelmingly cast ballots this way as states have loosened restrictions on them amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Trump has assailed mail-in votes as illegitimate for months and may have discouraged many of his supporters from choosing the option.

Sullivan, who is overseeing a lawsuit against the Postal Service over policy changes that plaintiffs say is designed to suppress mail-in voting, has been keeping daily tabs on workers’ efforts to collect and deliver ballots before state deadlines expire.

He has upbraided Postal Service leaders for defying his orders and required the top official in charge of election mail processing to appear in court for the last two days to ensure compliance with his demand for daily ballot sweeps and efforts to ensure they end up in the hands of election officials.

Sullivan is expected to hold another conference on the status of those efforts Friday.