Bennet, Hickenlooper, Colleagues Urge USPS to Ensure On-Time Delivery of Mail-In Ballots

Denver — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, alongside 17 of their Senate colleagues, called on U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster Louis DeJoy to ensure the timely delivery of mail-in ballots throughout the 2024 election cycle and beyond.

“USPS serves an essential function in American elections. On a nonpartisan basis, it securely processes, transports, and delivers election mail, including ballots,” wrote Bennet, Hickenlooper, and the senators. “We believe that the Postal Service remains well-equipped to securely deliver mail-in ballots. However, given the service disruptions already resulting from the DFA plan, we fear the same approach adopted by USPS in 2020 and 2022 may not be sufficient to guarantee on-time delivery results.”

Following recent USPS facility consolidations, many communities across the country have faced unreliable and untimely delivery, particularly in rural areas. 

Bennet and Hickenlooper have repeatedly called on USPS to improve mail service for Coloradans. Last month, alongside Colorado lawmakers, the senators reiterated their calls to the USPS to improve mail delivery service for Colorado’s mountain communities. In May, the senators urged USPS to eliminate fees to access their mail for Coloradans whose physical addresses were not eligible for home delivery. In April, USPS delayed proposed changes to the Grand Junction Processing and Distribution Center following a letter from the senators. Last year, Bennet and Hickenlooper invited DeJoy to tour a mail facility in Colorado to see the ongoing service and delivery challenges that Coloradans face.

In addition to Bennet and Hickenlooper, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Angus King (Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also signed the letter.

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Postmaster General DeJoy:

The United States Postal Service (USPS) did an exceptional job delivering ballots by mail in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Since 2022, however, USPS’s implementation of its Delivering for America (DFA) plan has led to significant delivery issues nationwide. To ensure our constituents receive the highest possible level of mail-in ballot service this election season, we request information about the Postal Service’s policies and plans to prepare for the 2024 election cycle.

USPS serves an essential function in American elections. On a nonpartisan basis, it securely processes, transports, and delivers election mail, including ballots. In 2020, the Postal Service overcame a series of challenges, including the onset of a global pandemic, to fulfill this critical mission. Impressively, it delivered 97.9% of ballots within three days, even as a record number of Americans voted by mail. For the 2022 midterm elections, USPS maintained this standard of excellence and delivered 98.96% of ballots within three days. 

The Postal Service took extraordinary steps to achieve these results. For months before each election, it engaged in direct outreach with and offered support to thousands of election officials across the country to guarantee the secure and timely delivery of ballots. USPS also implemented special procedures to expand ground operations, including by scheduling supplemental collections and deliveries, creating special pick-ups, and extending facility operating hours. Furthermore, in the days leading up to each election, it automatically processed ballots as Priority Mail Express and deployed local turnarounds, which allowed ballots mailed to the same locality to forgo broader USPS processing. 

We applaud these achievements, but much has changed since 2022. Last summer, USPS began a series of Mail Processing Facility Reviews (MPFR) to consolidate the national postal network around Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RP&DC). Through this process, USPS has greenlit the downgrading of 56 of 59 selected postal facilities across the country—including in Vermont, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Maine, California, Washington, and Georgia. The prospect of such consolidations is particularly concerning for Americans in rural communities, who must already navigate limited postal access.

In July 2023, USPS completed its first regional consolidation in Richmond, Virginia. A report from the USPS Inspector General found that the consolidation led to “a decrease in service performance for the Richmond region that continued four months after launch.” Prior to July 2023, the area’s on-time delivery rate was 89.7%, only 2.1% below the national average. Virginia’s on-time delivery rate is now down to 71.75% for Fiscal Year 2024, 15.25% below the national average. Earlier this year, these delays led some local election officials to direct area residents to forego USPS entirely and instead place primary election ballots in designated drop boxes.

USPS continued the MPFR process for several months, despite this evidence of consolidation related service disruptions. In February 2024, for example, USPS consolidated Oregon's postal operations around an RP&DC in Portland. Despite USPS assurances that the consolidation would minimally affect residents, mail delays have already been reported in Southern Oregon. This area has a higher proportion of seniors and veterans compared to the national average, a group that heavily depends on USPS for medication, bill payments, and ballots, and cannot afford to experience any delays in service. 

We are encouraged that, in the face of strong bipartisan opposition, USPS has now paused the MPFR process until after the 2024 election. However, as you indicated in your recent letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, that pause is set to expire in January 2025. Further, despite repeated requests from stakeholders and Members of Congress, the Postal Service has failed to provide evidence that these consolidations will not degrade service nationally, as they have done in Virginia and Oregon. 

We believe that the Postal Service remains well-equipped to securely deliver mail-in ballots. However, given the service disruptions already resulting from the DFA plan, we fear the same approach adopted by USPS in 2020 and 2022 may not be sufficient to guarantee on-time delivery results. To ensure effective postal operations for the upcoming election, we request responses to the following questions by July 24, 2024: 

1. Has USPS conducted any studies evaluating the DFA plan’s short- and long-term impact on election mail operations? If so, please provide us with a copy of such studies. If not, why not? 

2. During the MPFR pause, will the Postal Service commit to providing evidence that the consolidation will not result in further degradation of service for customers? 

3. Please describe any efforts the Postal Service has taken or plans to take to engage in direct outreach and offer support to election officials for the 2024 election, as it did during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. 

4. Since 2022, has USPS developed new election mail strategies to account for continued implementation of the DFA plan? 

5. In the upcoming election, how does the Postal Service intend to improve service for the communities where it has already proceeded with postal consolidations?

6. What support from Congress, if any, does USPS need to ensure on-time delivery of election mail?