On-time rates for first class mail deliveries in Minnesota slowed to a five-year low following President Trump’s controversial Postmaster General appointment earlier this summer, a data analysis by KARE 11 and the Associated Press shows.
Though the rate began rebounding toward the end of summer, Minnesota is still far away from meeting the USPS’s target rate of delivering more than 95% of its first class mail within five days.
That target was met 84% of the time in the last week of August, according to the most recent data available.
It’s not just Minnesota that’s seen a problem. Postal districts in other key election battleground states and districts across the country are missing the agency's own goals by wide margins, the data shows, raising the possibility that scores of mailed ballots could miss deadlines for reaching local election offices if voters wait too long.
Missing a deadline is a key reason mail-in ballots get rejected.
The turmoil surrounding the Postal Service has at least some voters wondering if the mail-in system will work.
“Lots of customers have asked me if their ballots will get there on time,” said Laura Hogg, a Minneapolis letter carrier. “Some people have said they're going to go vote in person just because of the gravity of the election. They just want to make sure their vote is counted.”
The message to voters is clear - mail those ballots early.
“As soon as possible," said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.
The Postal Service has been drawn into the political fray after its new leader, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, implemented a series of cost-cutting measures that delayed deliveries nationwide.
The changes have sparked a flurry of legal challenges and caused concerns over the agency's ability to handle the anticipated crush of election mail this year, although DeJoy has said it will be the Postal Service's top priority.
DeJoy, a GOP megadonor with no previous experience at the Postal Service, postponed the removal of mail sorting machines and collection boxes last month. He said it was "to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail."
After DeJoy took over, Minnesota’s on-time rates dropped from 86% to 75% during the middle of July, the lowest since the rate hit 70% in 2015.
But even before DeJoy’s appointment, Minnesota’s on-time rates had been slowly declining over the last eight years, from 90% in 2012 to 84% during the summer.
Minnesota has only once met the 95% on-time target since 2012.
Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said the agency is committed to improving service and pointed to a nearly 89% national on-time rate for first-class mail at the start of September.