The agency has also argued that the daily delivery rates presented to the courts do not accurately reflect performance as scores vary based on the day and volume of mail. However, a spokesman for the postal service said it could not provide weekly numbers by region.
The postal service blamed the pandemic and labor shortage for some of the poor rates. As coronavirus cases increased across the country, the Detroit district said only 78 percent of its employees were available for work, while Central Pennsylvania reported 84 percent, according to a court file on Friday.
“This was one of the things I really worried about this year,” said Tammy Patrick, former Arizona election administrator and senior advisor to Democracy Fund, a research and advocacy group. “As you get closer to election day, your options are usually exhausted.”
Keith Combs, president of the Detroit chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, said the post office was still recovering from the operational cuts that Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, imposed this summer while it continued with a staff shortage had to do.
Mail delivery backups were better than before, but customers were still experiencing delays, Combs said. The postal service has tried carefully to protect the ballots from the slowdowns, but some could slip through the cracks, he added.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are nowhere near the only places where issues are reported. Lakeland, the postal service district that covers most of Wisconsin and northern Illinois, has consistently fallen below the national average along with Atlanta. The Gulf Atlantic District, which includes parts of Georgia and Florida, has also been below the national average for most of the days this week.
Other swing states have not experienced such widespread delays. Certain Florida postal counties, including Suncoast and South Florida, have largely received ballots to electoral officials this week at rates in excess of 90 percent. With the exception of Friday and Saturday, the on-time mail delivery rate in Arizona remained above 97 percent.