By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in Congress on Wednesday said reported delays in mail deliveries in some U.S. cites could jeopardize delivery of ballots ahead of next week's presidential election.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington late Tuesday ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to release daily reports on mail deliveries, participate in daily court conferences and take other steps to ensure timely delivery of ballots.
He directed USPS distribute guidance to workers by Thursday of the need to ensure "completed ballots reach the appropriate election official by the state's designated deadline."
House Oversight and Reform Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said Postal "delays are now jeopardizing the delivery of election mail, so I encourage all Americans who have not yet voted to vote in person or use designated election drop boxes."
USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer said the Postal Service is complying with Judge Sullivan's order. "We take all of our legal obligations very seriously."
USPS does not recommend mailing ballots less than seven days before state deadlines. Some states accept ballots if postmarked by Nov. 3, while others require receipt by Election Day.
Last Friday, USPS told Sullivan it returned 137 mail processing machines to service since August and approved thousands of daily extra or late delivery trips.
Lawmakers heavily criticized Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who took over in June, for cost-cutting organizational changes adopted in July including eliminating extra deliveries. A USPS inspector general audit report released last week said those changes were a factor in delayed deliveries. DeJoy suspended changes in August.
Four U.S. judges, including Sullivan, have issued injunctions barring USPS from making service reductions.
USPS said it has delivered more than 100 million blank or completed ballots since early September.
Record numbers of voters are casting ballots by mail instead of in person because of the coronavirus pandemic, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said, without providing evidence, that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)