- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2021

The Democratic Party of Virginia has filed a lawsuit alleging that local branches of the U.S. Postal Service failed to process and deliver election-related material ahead of the gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, contends that more than 300,000 Virginians are likely to attempt to cast their ballots by mail this cycle, but USPS did not deliver the requested ballots promptly and therefore is threatening to disenfranchise thousands of Virginia voters.

“Thousands of absentee ballots currently sit at postal facilities throughout the Commonwealth, unprocessed for weeks on end,” the lawsuit states.

The suit was filed on behalf of the state party by the Elias Law Group, a firm headed by longtime Democratic elections attorney Marc Elias, who was involved in 32 cases against 19 states over their election laws when he represented Democratic candidates during the 2020 presidential cycle.

Most of those legal fights pertained to voting by mail.

The current legal action focuses on three counties in Virginia — Albemarle, Portsmouth and James City — where Democrats say the delay is “significant” and particularly “egregious.”

In those counties, the suit claims that “thousands of ballots delivered to postal facilities weeks ago are still outstanding and, weeks later have not yet even been scanned into USPS’s system.”

“Even if these voters eventually do receive their ballots before Election Day, the slowdowns promise that they will not have sufficient time to send them back with assurance that they will arrive in time to be counted,” the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, even if a ballot arrives on time to the appropriate election official, it is still a problem. Democrats argue that if an official cites any issues with the ballot that requires remediation before it is counted, the voter will not have time to correct the problem.

The USPS defended its delivery protocols and processing of election-related materials.

“The Postal Service has a robust and tested process for the proper handling and timely delivery of Election Mail. Our Election Mail processes and procedures are fully operational in Virginia. We are not aware of any processing delays of any ballots within our facilities nor any ballot delivery delays, and we have fully communicated this information to election officials,” USPS public relations representative Martha Johnson said in an email to The Washington Times.

“Throughout the election cycle we work closely with state and local election officials and have been addressing any concerns that they raise. Daily sweeps are being conducted in all our Virginia facilities,” Ms. Johnson said.

Early in-person voting in the commonwealth began Sept. 17 and ends Oct. 30. Election Day is on Nov. 2.

Those who wanted to cast mail-in ballots had a deadline to request their ballots by 5 p.m. Oct. 22. Voters could complete their forms online or return their applications to their voter registration office either in person or by fax.

Virginia Democratic officials want the court to order the postal service to prioritize and expedite delivery of election-related mail and require it to deliver all election mail by no later than three days after its entry into the USPS system.

In addition, the state party wants the postal service to process all outstanding election mail-in Albemarle, James City and Portsmouth within 24 hours.

The lawsuit comes just two days after the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against Fairfax County, alleging at least 339 ballot applications were accepted without the required identification numbers.

Under a Democratic majority and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s General Assembly changed the commonwealth’s election laws over the past few months. That included repealing the state’s voter photo ID law, allowing 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting and setting up automatic voter registration for anyone who gets a driver’s license.

Additionally, ballot drop boxes were codified into law last year, a measure Virginia GOP officials say is a step toward ballot harvesting in the state.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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