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Police in Wisconsin have recovered three trays of mail found in a ditch near the Appleton International Airport that included absentee ballots, adding to fears that a dramatic increase in mail-in balloting ahead of the November election will create nightmarish logistical problems and contested results.
The Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office found the trays near Greenville and have since returned them to the U.S. Postal Service, which is conducting an investigation into how they got there.
“The United States Postal Inspection Service immediately began investigating and we reserve further comment on this matter until that is complete,” USPS spokesman Bob Sheehan told WLUK.
A spokesperson for the inspection service told the Washington Examiner officials are aware of the incident and that the trays contained absentee ballots, but would not comment further.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department told the outlet that the trays recovered contained “mail going to the post office.”
Some states have greatly expanded mail-in balloting during the COVID-19 pandemic, but doing so has created problems. In Wisconsin, for instance, thousands of ballots were not counted during the primary because they were not discovered until the day after the elections.
Following the state’s April 7 primary, its two U.S. senators, Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, wrote the USPS Inspector General requesting a probe into mail-in voting problems that included tubs of ballots that were never delivered and hundreds of ballots returned without postmarks.
The postal service IG found “issues related to the timeliness of ballots being mailed to voters, correcting misdelivery of ballots, an inability to track ballots, and inconsistent postmarking of ballots.”
Other states’ primaries were problematic including elections in California, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Washington, D.C., also experienced problems.
That said, on Monday, a federal judge ordered the Postal Service to make election mail a priority.
“The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election, raising doubts as to whether their votes will ultimately be counted,” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said in his ruling.
“Conflicting, vague, and ambivalent managerial signals could also sow substantial doubt about whether the USPS is up to the task, whether it possesses the institutional will power and commitment to its historical mission, and so to handle the exceptional burden associated with a profoundly critical task in our democratic system, that of collecting and delivering election mail a few weeks from now,” he noted further.
Wisconsin, which President Donald Trump won in 2016, remains a highly contested battleground state.
In August, a federal judge in New York ruled that more than 1,000 ballots allegedly cast during the June primary that either weren’t postmarked or were received after election day had to be counted.
That came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that absentee ballots in Wisconsin had to be received or postmarked by election day in order to be counted.
As the November date approaches, however, a series of state and federal court rulings in other key battleground states have drawn the ire of conservatives who say they bend or break existing election laws in ways that favor Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Conservative talker and former Reagan Justice Department official Mark Levin blasted state courts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as a federal court in Wisconsin, for “unconstitutionally” extending mail-in ballot deadlines in all three states, allowing for “counting ballots beyond the statutorily set Election Day for the sole purpose of helping Biden and the Democrats.”
“Judicial tyranny raises its ugly head once again,” he noted. “The Republicans control the state legislatures in these states and must assert their authority under Article II of the federal Constitution.”
Republicans, as well as President Trump, have routinely pushed back against Democratic efforts to expand mail-in balloting because they say it greatly increases chances for fraud.
“The problem with all-mail voting is that votes cast through the mail are subject to being stolen, altered, and forged, and are dependent on the postal service delivering them in time and to the correct address,” Hans von Spakovsky, manager of The Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, told the Daily Caller in August.
“There is no reason we can’t vote in-person safely – the same way all of us are currently going to our grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail establishments like Walmart and Target,” he added.
To that point, the Public Interest Legal Foundation announced earlier this week an analysis of voter registration rolls found they contained the names of 350,000 people across 42 states who are dead.
“Our voter rolls have not, and will not be ready for a mail-focused election this November,” said Logan Churchwell, communications director for PILF. “State court decisions in swing states allowing for relaxed deadlines, signature verification, and harvesting now sit on a foundation of bad voter data.”
“In Pennsylvania, your mis-delivered ballot to the hands of a bad actor will now have extra time to get turned in and not face the traditional standards for signature verification,” Churchwell added. “The only way to absolutely avoid this nightmare is to vote in person.”