Senators Johnson, Baldwin call for investigation of Wisconsin absentee ballots

WASHINGTON, DC (WBAY) - Wisconsin's U.S. senators are calling on the U.S. Postal Service's inspector general to find out why so many absentee ballots didn't reach Wisconsin voters in time for the spring election.

A letter to Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb says there are numerous complaints that the postal service failed when there was an unprecedented demand for absentee ballots so voters didn't have to risk their health by voting in person during this pandemic.

They cited a report by state Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) that three tubs of absentee ballots intended for voters in Appleton and Oshkosh were found in a Milwaukee processing center after voting ended on April 7.

They also cite reports in Milwaukee of absentee ballots requested on March 22 and 23 never being delivered, and the Village of Fox Point reporting that multiple batches of ballots were returned by the post office with no explanation.

"The United States Postal Service (USPS) in short, had an outsized role in ensuring Wisconsinites could safely exercise the right to vote and participate in our democracy," the senators wrote. "Unfortunately, there have been numerous accounts from the state that USPS failed to fulfill that critical function for some voters."

They ask the postal service to identify what went wrong and solve it, since more voters are likely to want to vote by mail in the future.

Dear Inspector General Whitcomb:

We are writing to urge you to investigate numerous reports of absentee ballots not being delivered in a timely manner for the Wisconsin primary election held on Tuesday, April 7th. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an unprecedented increase in requests for absentee ballots, as more and more voters sought to comply with public health guidance and avoid potential risk to their health by avoiding in-person voting. The United States Postal Service (USPS) in short, had an outsized role in ensuring Wisconsinites could safely exercise the right to vote and participate in our democracy.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous accounts from the state that USPS failed to fulfill that critical function for some voters. According to an April 8th report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the account of a state legislator, three tubs of absentee ballots from Appleton and Oshkosh were discovered in USPS’s Milwaukee processing center after polls closed on Tuesday.1 In addition, the City of Milwaukee Election Commission has requested that USPS investigate the failure of batches of absentee ballots requested on March 22nd and 23nd to be delivered to voters. Finally, the Village of Fox Point reports that USPS returned to them multiple batches of unsent absentee ballots and they were unable to obtain an explanation from their local post office as to why they were not delivered to the voters who requested them.

We are concerned there may be more examples, and request that you promptly open an investigation to determine the cause of these failures, which appear to have disenfranchised many Wisconsin voters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues and as more voters are likely to request to vote by mail where available, this year’s forthcoming elections will require that USPS’s existing vote-by-mail procedures are strictly and effectively followed. It is critical that you quickly identify what has gone wrong and propose solutions that USPS can swiftly implement.

Sincerely,
Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson

On Friday, the USPS released this statement:

"We have been made aware of potential issues with absentee ballots in Wisconsin and are currently conducting an investigation into the claims. At this time we do not have additional information to provide on this issue. It is important to note that throughout every election cycle, the U.S. Postal Service works with state and local election officials to ensure the timely delivery of Election Mail. The United States Mail system serves as a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner."