Inspectors Find 180,000 Pieces Of Delayed Mail At Miami-Dade Post Office
More than 180,000 pieces of delayed mail have been found at the Princeton post office after a Florida state representative posted a video last week of piles overflowing bins.
Altogether, 62 ballots were found, according to a report filed by government attorneys with U.S. Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington federal court Monday evening. Sullivan is overseeing a federal lawsuit against the postal service filed by the NAACP in August.
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All but one of the ballots had been delivered as postal inspectors continue to investigate the mishandling of mail at the facility, the report said. The lone ballot not delivered was returned to the post office because the house at the address had no mail receptacle and no one was home, the report said.
To help move the mail, government attorneys said more than 50 additional workers have been brought to the facility.
Postal inspectors began investigating the Princeton post office over the weekend after Rep. Kionne McGhee — who represents a stretch of South Miami-Dade from Richmond Heights to Florida City — posted a video of stacked up mail on social media.
Agent-in-Charge Scott Pierce said Monday that agents were investigating various facilities around the county.
South Florida was drawn into the national lawsuit Sunday after Sullivan ordered daily status reports on the Princeton facility.
While it was not singled out, South Florida also turned up in earlier status reports Sullivan ordered in an attempt to track mail delays.
In the most recent report filed Sunday, Department of Justice attorneys defending Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reported that the percentage of mail being delivered in the South Florida district fell to 53.5 percent on Tuesday and 66.7 percent Wednesday. The rate increased slightly to 79.5 percent Saturday.
The timely delivery of mail has been a major discussion point due to the pandemic and more voters turning to voting by mail. The U.S. Postal Service came under increased scrutiny over the summer after President Trump appointed DeJoy to head the post office.
DeJoy announced plans to change operations at the service and dismantle sorting machines, citing a drop in mail caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But in its lawsuit, the NAACP argued that the pandemic had in fact caused a surge in mail-in ballots, making the postal service more important than ever.
“Mail-in voting is essential to ensuring that all Americans have an opportunity to vote without risking their safety, and mail-in voting requires prompt and reliable postal service,” the NAACP argued. “Prompt mail delivery is also especially important during the pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused, as Americans rely on the mail for medications, for benefits, to receive legal notices, and for many other important communications.”
In October, Sullivan issued an injunction preventing DeJoy from making the changes.
During that time, the volume of mail in South Florida — between Boca Raton and Homestead — more than doubled, said Wanda Harris, president of the American Postal Workers Union’s local chapter.
“A couple of months ago, I would tell you, on average, [we were processing] maybe two million pieces a day,” she said last week, before McGhee posted the video. “Right now we have been processing five million pieces a day and we have been [working] six and seven days, working ten and twelve hours. And that's been going on for the last couple of months. That's how much mail we are processing.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle spoke with the postal service and Elections Supervisor Cristina White Friday evening, after McGhee posted his video earlier that day, calling for an audit of all the county’s post offices. Rundle spoke with the inspector general’s office again Sunday, according to State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith.
The Miami Herald reported Sunday that four dozen ballots had been found at the Princeton office. Of those, six were completed and sent to elections officials. Twenty-four were not filled out and sent to voters. The remaining ballots belonged to voters who had already voted or were replacement ballots, according to the Herald.
To ensure ballots make it to elections offices, Harris said distribution centers are usually swept by postal and election offices as polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"They have a signed contract with the postal service on all elections," she said. "We sweep the whole building and make sure there's no ballots left in the plant."
It’s not clear which facilities are being inspected by agents and Sullivan has so far only requested status reports from Princeton. Postal Service spokeswoman Carol Hunt said the service would not comment on the matter until inspectors complete their investigation.