The US Postal Service agreed to adopt measures to speed up ballot processing and delivery ahead of the Georgia runoff elections after discussions with civil rights groups, The Washington Post reported.
The organization agreed to treat ballots as express mail if they were still in a processing plant in the three days before the election. That means mail-in ballots would be delivered the next day. Additionally, ballots being sent from a New York printer to the state would be fast-tracked, and the postal service will sweep facilities to ensure no ballots are misplaced.
In Atlanta, the USPS agreed to skip the processing plants and directly send the ballots to vote-counting centers.
The new policy is a result of challenges from groups like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Vote Forward.
The Atlanta voting district has seen a low rate of ballots arriving on time to mail processing centers, The Post reported. Only 80.4% of the over 150,000 mail ballots in that district that have already been processed were on time, but experts told the newspaper that the rate should be closer to 97%.
Across the country, a record number of mail-in-ballots was recorded during the November general election, and civil rights groups expect Georgia, and especially the Atlanta area, which is the most populous and diverse, to also surpass its own records during the runoffs.
Two Democrats, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff are working to unseat Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
This also comes amid high scrutiny of the US Postal Service, after it determined it would have a hard time delivering an avalanche of packages by Christmas. In some cases, mail parcels are stacked so high that it’s difficult for employees to walk around, packages are sitting on trucks for several days waiting to be sorted, and employees are working as many as 80 hours per week.
The agency has said the delays are due to the coronavirus pandemic. Around 19,000 of the agency’s 644,000 workers are sick or in isolation due to COVID-19.
“Amid the historic volume, the Postal Service continues to flex its network, including making sure the right equipment is available to sort, process, and deliver a historic volume of mail and packages this holiday season,” Kim Frum, a spokesperson for the Postal Service told Insider.
“Our entire Operations team, from collections to processing to delivery, worked throughout this past weekend and continues to work around the clock to address the historic volume.”