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Texas Is Among The States Being Warned Of Possible Vote-By-Mail Problems

A U.S. Postal Service worker delivers mail in Austin in March.
A U.S. Postal Service worker delivers mail in Austin in March.

Texas is among the states the U.S. Postal Service has warned about potential problems with delivering mail-in ballots this fall.

"Under our reading of Texas' election laws, certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," the agency's general counsel, Thomas Marshall,  wrote in a letter to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs dated July 30. "This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them."

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Texas law allows voters to request a mail-in ballot up to 11 days before an election. Marshall said, however, USPS needs at least 15 days to deliver a ballot to a voter and then get it back to election officials. His letter also warned that at least one week is needed to deliver completed ballots, while Texas law allows voters to get their ballots postmarked on Election Day and have them counted, as long as election officials receive them by 5 p.m. the next day.

"As a result, to the extent that the mail is used to transmit ballots to and from voters, there is a significant risk that, at least in certain circumstances, ballots may be requested in a manner that is consistent with your election rules and returned promptly, and yet not be returned in time to be counted," Marshall wrote.

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State's office declined to answer whether the state could change those deadlines. 

The USPS' warning comes as postal workers raise alarms about changes at the agency, including a cut in overtime, which has caused delays in delivering mail in some places.

President Trump said Thursday he would not authorize emergency funding for the Postal Service to shore up its services,  appearing to suggest he wanted to make it harder to expand mail-in voting. Later in the day, however, he said he would sign a bill that included more funding.

Got a tip? Email Matt Largey at mlargey@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey .

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