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Miami-Dade state attorney wants ballot audit after backlog found at mail facility

Katherine Fernández Rundle called for action from the U.S. Postal Service.
Miami-Dade resident James Curity deposit a ballot in a USPS mailbox outside the Miami Beach City Hall during early voting for the general election on Wednesday in Miami Beach.
Miami-Dade resident James Curity deposit a ballot in a USPS mailbox outside the Miami Beach City Hall during early voting for the general election on Wednesday in Miami Beach. [ DAVID SANTIAGO | Miami Herald ]
Published Oct. 31, 2020|Updated Oct. 31, 2020

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle wants every mail distribution center in the county to be searched for undelivered ballots, and for those ballots to be brought immediately to the Miami-Dade Elections Department ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

In a statement Friday night, the county’s top prosecutor called for action from the U.S. Postal Service after the Miami Herald reported a backlog of mail at the Princeton post office in South Miami-Dade County near Homestead.

Fernández Rundle said she was working with the elections department and the USPS inspector general’s office “to make sure that all ballots are accounted for and all votes are counted.”

“I have requested that all postal distribution centers be audited and any and all ballots that may remain in these centers be immediately transported to the Department of Elections,” she said. “I have offered the full resources of the State Attorney’s Elections Task Force to Elections Supervisor Cristina White and South Florida’s Special Agent in Charge of the United States Postal Inspector’s Office Antonio Gomez.”

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Miami-Dade State Attorney spokesman Ed Griffith said the office can only ask for an audit of the county’s postal facilities. Representatives for USPS and the USPS inspector general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night. A representative for the Elections Supervisor had no additional information.

Princeton is an unincorporated Miami-Dade community where nearly 70 percent of residents are Hispanic and 23 percent are Black, according to U.S. Census data.

In a statement earlier Friday, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Debbie Fetterly said the USPS was looking into the backlog at the Princeton post office in South Miami-Dade.

Under Florida law, mail ballots must be received by county elections departments by 7 p.m. on Election Night in order to count.

Earlier Friday, State Rep. Kionne McGhee tweeted a brief, undated video clip purporting to show mail stacked up at the Princeton post office with the caption, “Raw footage of mailroom in post office here in Miami Dade. Source revealed ‘mail in ballots are within these piled up in bins on the floor. Mail has been sitting for over week!’”

In a follow-up tweet, McGhee wrote, “Per source — both Post Master and Postal Inspector are aware of this issue at the Princeton post office. Post Master is taking photos and videos of the matter and expect sorting to take them past Tuesday.”

McGhee, the outgoing Democratic leader of the Florida House and a candidate for county commission in Miami-Dade’s southernmost district, said the video was sent to him “from a concerned postal worker who was disturbed by what they were seeing.”

The video, McGhee said, “means we have a lot more work to do to ensure that the integrity of our voting system, our mail system and our nation remains intact.”

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“I call on the Postal Service to correct this and promise the citizens of Miami-Dade that these ballots will be delivered in time,” McGhee said. “I call on (Florida Secretary of State) Laurel Lee ... and Governor Ron DeSantis to use their power and influence to guarantee every valid vote in Florida is counted.”

Mark Travers, the South Florida president for the National Association of Letter Carriers, confirmed to the Miami Herald that the footage showed the Princeton post office, but said he could not identify any ballots.

Travers said he first learned of the backup more than a week ago, on Wednesday, Oct. 21. He raised the matter in a call that Friday with other Florida mail officials, who said they would address the issue.

A week later, it appeared the backlog remained, Travers said. He has since been told that additional resources, including more trucks, would be sent to the area, and that carriers would be asked to work to their “contractual maximum” to get the mail out.

He also said officials are now considering delivering mail this Sunday to alleviate the backlog.

“They said they’ll be current by (Saturday),” Travers said. “I’m not sure I believe that.”

Still, he said, “It shouldn’t look like that — it shouldn’t be that backed up. No one person could clear that out in one day. It should not be that backed up. It needs to be moving out quicker.”

Later Friday, McGhee tweeted that USPS Inspection Service officials had arrived at the Princeton office, along with a video that appeared to show an Inspection Service cruiser with its strobe lights on. The Inspection Service did not immediately respond to an email request for comment from the Miami Herald.

Travers confirmed the inspectors' arrival late Friday, and said postal officials would now “pour resources in from all over the district to get all mail delivered.”

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