1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says

One particularly troubling situation, auditors found, unfolded in Pennsylvania, where 500 ballots were sent to voters the day after the election.

The inspector general’s audit also found that only 13 percent of ballots were mailed with the recommended bar code tracking technology. The investigators flagged longstanding problems with election boards failing to maintain updated voter files, meaning voters’ addresses were often out of date.

Additionally, the audit found problems in Baltimore. Even though postal officials there “certified that they were clear of election and political mail daily, our audit determined that political mail received on May 12, 2020, sat unprocessed for five days, resulting in about 68,000 political mail mailpieces not delivered on time,” the auditors wrote. They said the mail was eventually processed, but much later than it should have been.

Mr. DeJoy, who built a fortune in the private sector, began putting cost-cutting measures in place when he took over the Postal Service in June; mail delivery slowed by as much as 8 percent. He backed off some of his service cuts amid a firestorm of criticism and pledged to Congress last week that “we will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”

David E. Williams, a Postal Service vice president in charge of operations, wrote in response to the report that management “largely agrees with the audit’s findings and recommendations, and we reiterate our commitment to efficiently process the nation’s political and election mail, and to timely deliver such mail.”

The audit, dated Monday, is the second by the Postal Service inspector general to examine mistakes made during the 2020 primary elections. Last month, auditors focused on problems in Wisconsin, where hundreds of ballots were left in tubs, unaccounted for, at the Milwaukee processing and distribution center during the state’s primary in April. About 160 ballots were erroneously returned to a local election office; another 390 had issues with the postmark, which led to confusion about whether they could be counted, the inspector general found.

The agency’s watchdog has also opened an inquiry into Mr. DeJoy in response to Democrats in Congress who sought an investigation into his operational changes and his personal finances, including his ownership of stock in a Postal Service contractor.