The USPS can't account for 300,000 absentee ballots, but that's probably not as bad as it sounds

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was furious Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service had defied his order to sweep postal processing facilities in 15 states Tuesday to find missing absentee ballots and deliver them on time. The USPS had said in a court document that 300,000 ballots had been scanned into facilities but not scanned out, suggesting they were misplaced.

Instead of complying with Sullivan's order, the USPS kept to its own schedule, raising concerns that tens of thousands of ballots would not be delivered in time to be counted. "It just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth for the clock to run out — game's over — and then to find out there was no compliance with a very important court order," Sullivan said. He suggested he would demand a deposition from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Notably, there were 81,000 untraced ballots spread across postal districts in key swing states with a combined 151 electoral votes, The Washington Post reports, though, according to its analysis, the missing ballots "are unlikely to affect the outcome of the presidential race." In many cases, USPS said, the ballots had been hand-sorted and delivered without an exit scan. The USPS did not provide data to indicate how prevalent that practice has been, though it did disclose that 7 percent of ballots in its sorting facilities Tuesday were not delivered in time to be counted.

"Even in a worst-case scenario where all potentially misplaced ballots in a state are permanently lost, those ballots amount to just a fraction of both current two-party vote margins and estimates of the number of outstanding ballots yet to be tallied," the Post reports. In Georgia, for instance, the maximum 6,624 missing votes represent just 8 percent of the margin between President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

In other states, though, the number of missing ballots is larger — more than 11,000 in Pennsylvania and 16,000 in Florida — and the untraced absentee votes in Arizona make up 24 percent of the outstanding margin between Biden and Trump, the Post reports. Also, its analysis that "misplaced mail ballots will not be a significant factor in final vote tallies" has the caveat that it might be a factor if "the final presidential vote margins shrink to low three- or four-digit numbers in the coming days." In some states, like Arizona and Georgia that's a distinct possibility.

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