A federal judge is looking for answers after the Postmaster General failed to comply with an order to conduct a "sweep" in swing states across the country in an effort to ensure no postal ballots were missed or undelivered, according to reports. The USPS was given until 3 p.m. Tuesday to conduct the sweep but it said it was unable to comply with U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's order without "significantly disrupting" Election Day activities, Politico reported.
Sullivan said he would have considered alternate options had he been aware that his order would cause a strain on the Postal Service.
He said that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is "either going to have to be deposed or appear before me and testify under oath about why some measures were not taken," Sullivan said.
"Someone may have a price to pay for that," he added.
He told a Justice Department attorney, arguing on behalf of USPS, that he believes the leadership of the Postal Service is to blame.
“It’s your clients. Each and every one of them, starting at the top of the food chain,” he said, according to the outlet. “I don’t want you to keep falling on the sword.”
The request to conduct a thorough sweep comes after several organizations sued the Postal Service and DeJoy, claiming slow delivery would impact the election ballots being counted on time.
Department of Justice lawyers for USPS said that there "wasn't enough time" to get postal inspected to get to all postal facilities by the deadline, Forbes reported.
Now, Judge Sullivan in Washington has said DeJoy must answer why the USPS failed to complete the court-ordered sweep for undelivered ballots.
Despite its failure to meet its deadline, the postal office did say that they had been conducting sweeps of political election mail since January 2020 and that efforts were intensified as Election Day approached, the outlet reported.
However, the Postal Service acknowledged late Tuesday that it did not comply with the judge's order in time saying it was not logistically possible.
“As discussed above, the Inspection Service was not able to conduct specific sweeps at specific times of the day, as this was not operationally possible to implement in the limited time available,” a statement said. “Our understanding at the hearing was that the Court did not intend for the Postal Service to make operational changes on Election Day, but rather to confirm that the existing processes were functioning as anticipated.”
Across the country, an estimated 300,000 ballots were scanned as they entered USPS facilities but were not documented as having left for delivery, according to USPS data. During the sweeps that USPS did conduct, they found 13 total delayed ballots in Pennsylvania –– three in Johnstown and 10 ballots in Lancaster, according to Reuters.
A Postal Service spokesman said that the data does not imply that those ballots were undelivered.
“The assumption that there are unaccounted ballots within the Postal Service network is inaccurate,” the spokesman, David Partenheimer, told Politico. “These ballots were delivered in advance of the election deadlines. We employed extraordinary measures to deliver ballots directly to local boards of elections. When this occurs, by design, these ballots bypass certain processing operations and do not receive a final scan. Instead, they are expedited directly to the boards of elections.”
Sullivan has reportedly been the most aggressive judge handling lawsuits pertaining to the USPS over disruptive operational changes that have since been put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed in July.