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Here’s why tracking your mail-in ballot in Florida was so important

USPS is under fire for ignoring an order to sweep facilities, which could have resulted in uncounted mail-in ballots in Florida.

Virginia Gil

There’s no use in crying over spilled milk, or in this case, the Florida mail-in ballot you forgot to track and perhaps wasn’t counted. On Election Day, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered a mid-day sweep of 12 postal districts, including South Florida, to ensure any lingering ballots could be submitted to election officials before the polls closed. Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen.

Lawyers for the USPS said the agency wouldn’t abide by the order, which required mail facilities to perform checks between 12:30pm and 3pm and provide a status update by 4:30pm—versus the planned 4pm to 8pm sweep, which wouldn't give postal workers enough time to make it to the polls. In Florida, ballots must be in (not postmarked) by 7pm or else they will not be counted. The short of it, an early sweep of the facilities singled out for suffering from substandard delivery performance of election mail could have moved the needle in some of the closer congressional races.

Vice reports that the crisis isn’t as bad as it looks and there’s no good evidence to support that the USPS had “any systematic, widespread screw-ups beyond the anecdotal,” writes Aaron Gordon, who’s been reporting on the USPS for months. Still, the USPS just ignored a judicial order and for some that’s unacceptable. On Wednesday, Judge Sullivan blasted the postal service’s legal team for failure to comply with the order. “It just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth for the clock to run out, game over. There was not compliance with a very important court order,” said the judge, according to an article published on Bloomberg

On-time delivery has taken on a new urgency, but not everything is the postal service’s fault. What could you have done differently? Simply put, tracked your mail-in ballot. Florida makes it easy to do online. Let this serve as a lesson for the next election. If your ballot hasn’t arrived by Election Day, go to your nearest polling station and cast your vote in person. Democracy depends on it. 


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