WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) sued the U.S. Postal Service over its failure to process and deliver election-related mail in a timely manner, potentially leading to the disenfranchisement of Virginians seeking to cast absentee ballots for the upcoming statewide election on Nov. 2. Following changes made in 2020 to its mail delivery standards that significantly altered mail delivery times, the Postal Service further altered its standards in early October. Now, the standard delivery time for first-class mail (which includes election materials) is five days, rather than three. This change has led to a significant delay in the processing and delivery of absentee ballot applications and ballots, which the complaint argues may significantly burden or even disenfranchise Virginia voters in violation of the First and 14th Amendments.
According to the complaint, over 300,000 Virginians may attempt to vote by mail in the upcoming statewide election. However, due to the Postal Service’s new practices, “28% of requested absentee ballots statewide have remained outstanding with the post office for more than three weeks after the date they were requested and delivered to the Postal Service by general registrars for delivery.” Three counties in particular — Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City counties — face significant processing delays, where ballots have been sitting at Postal Service facilities for weeks without even being “scanned into USPS’s system in the first instance, indicating that they have not even begun their journey to the requesting voters weeks after the Postal Service took possession of them.” The DPVA raises concerns around the now-compressed timeline to receive and return absentee ballots and for election officials to provide a meaningful opportunity for voters to cure any defective ballots before the cure deadline. The lawsuit asks the court to order the Postal Service to prioritize and expedite the processing of election-related mail, which DPVA argues is in line with their stated policies, and to immediately process any unscanned election materials in Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City counties.