Hundreds of Absentee Ballots in Detroit and Pennsylvania Missing, Not Delivered by USPS

Approximately 500 mail-in ballots in Detroit, Michigan, were never delivered to voters, the U.S. Postal Service said. Even more ballots in Butler County, Pennsylvania, haven't been delivered either, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Those reports exacerbate concerns surrounding mail-in voting in crucial swing states, a topic that has been a consistent source of worry ahead of the election during the coronavirus pandemic.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey told WXYZ that approximately 500 ballots she sent out to voters were never delivered, and USPS officials told her that they "can't be found," even after sweeping their facilities. In a statement, USPS said that it "has been made aware of several ballots that have not been delivered as anticipated and is researching the issue" and is working with Winfrey to correct it. Winfrey said that voters affected by the issue could have their ballots spoiled and get another ballot issued to them at one of Detroit's local voting centers.

Meanwhile, the Post-Gazette reports that only 24% of the nearly 40,000 mail-in ballots requested in Butler County have been returned, apparently because many were not delivered. It's unclear how many Butler County ballots were never delivered, but Butler County Commissioners Chair Leslie Osche said that the number "could be in the thousands." The county is sending new ballots to voters and has asked the USPS to investigate the issue. The USPS said it was "unaware of any significant delays or issues" but worked with the Board of Elections.

"At first, we thought that maybe it just was a delay in the postal system...And that could still be the case," Osche told KDKA-TV. "Our main focus — because it’s too late now to worry about this — we need to make sure we get these people their ballots."

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Voters across the country have expressed concern about not yet receiving ballots, and in addition to widespread incidents as in Detroit and Pennsylvania, other isolated issues have also sprung up. A former USPS employee in Kentucky was charged earlier this month after allegedly discarding a large quantity of mail — including about 111 general election absentee ballots. In Boston, dozens of ballots were destroyed after someone allegedly set fire to a voter drop box last weekend. Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness shared on social media that his absentee ballot in Texas was never "found or delivered," despite showing that it had been sent out on Oct. 8.

Voters who request a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in person instead — whether because they haven't received their ballots or otherwise — can do so in most states, though voters may have to cast in some states a provisional ballot, which can take longer to count. State officials nationwide are encouraging voters who haven't yet returned their mail-in ballots to return them using a ballot drop box or to an election office or polling place to ensure it arrives on time.