USPS Finally Agreed to Reverse Change That Delayed Mail the Most

The USPS agreed to rescind orders severely curtailing late and extra truck trips that have been the leading cause of mail delays in recent months, according to documents filed in three of the lawsuits against the postal service. The reversal comes less than a week before Election Day. 

The proposed order, which has not yet been distributed to most USPS personnel, would rescind the new transportation rules that postal workers have dubbed the “Cintron Guidelines,” named after the Vice President of Logistics Robert Cintron who drew up the policy. While the Cintron Guidelines is a set of virtually incomprehensible bureaucratic gobbledygook, the upshot is the guidelines drastically reduce late and extra truck trips that ostensibly save the USPS money while tanking performance and reliability as mail is left behind. 

Although the USPS previously announced a rollback or halt to controversial policies such as removal of sorting machines, blue mailboxes, and a reported overtime ban (that never actually existed), the policy rollback was carefully worded to not include anything about late and extra trips, the one policy change that had the biggest impact on mail delays.

The proposed order, which the USPS as well as plaintiffs including the NAACP and Vote Forward have agreed to, would see the USPS issuing a Stand-Up Talk memorandum to all employees who deal with transportation by 9 a.m. on October 29. This stand-up will announce that “Late and extra trips will be approved to the maximum extent necessary to increase on-time mail deliveries, particularly for Election Mail. Any prior communication that is inconsistent with this should be disregarded.”

The only dispute related to the proposed order is whether the stand-up would also include a second sentence that says: “To be clear, late and extra trips will be approved to the same or greater degree than they were performed prior to July 2020 when doing so would increase on-time mail deliveries.” Mail performance tanked in July following the issuance of these orders.

USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer said the USPS will comply with the order and that, “Beyond that, I want you to know that with a record number of people across the country voting by mail, the U.S. Postal Service’s number one priority between now and the November election is the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail.” The USPS plans to deploy “extraordinary measures,” according to Partenheimer, including extra deliveries and special pickups.

There are 29.9 million vote-by-mail ballots that haven’t been returned to election officials, according to the U.S. Elections Project. While mail service is generally doing better than it was in late July and early August, it is still erratic and well below the USPS’s service performance targets. As tens of millions of Americans vote by mail, whether or not the USPS effectively delivers the mail in a timely fashion in the coming days is one of the great unknowns heading into the final stretch of the election. Rescinding the single most impactful policy that delayed mail should help. 

This development should result in more votes already in the mail reaching election officials before deadline. But if you’re reading this now and haven’t mailed in your vote yet, the safest way to get your vote counted at this point is to drop it off at an official drop-off location if available or vote in person for the highest probability their vote will be received and counted.

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