The U.S. Postal Service is warning states it cannot guarantee that all ballots cast by mail for the Nov. 3 election will arrive in time to be counted, even if ballots are mailed by state deadlines. That’s raising the possibility that millions of voters could be disenfranchised.

It’s the latest chaotic and confusing development involving the agency, which has found itself in the middle of a high-stakes election year debate over who gets to vote in America, and how. Those questions are particularly potent in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led many Americans to consider voting by mail instead of heading to in-person polling places.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mail ballots as a way to vote without risking exposure to the virus at the polls. But President Donald Trump has baselessly excoriated mail ballots as fraudulent, worried that an increase could cost him the election. Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to vote by mail in primary contests held so far this year.

Some questions and answers about what’s going on with the post office and the upcoming election:


The Post Office has lost money for years, though advocates note it’s a government service rather than a profit-maximizing business.

In June, Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor and logistics company executive, took over as the new postmaster general and Trump tasked him with trying to make the Postal Service more profitable. Doing so would also squeeze businesses such as Amazon. Its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, has come under criticism from Trump because of the coverage the president has received from The Washington Post, which Bezos owns.

DeJoy cut overtime, late delivery trips and other expenses that ensure mail arrives at its destination on time. The result has been a national slowdown of mail.

The Postal Service is hoping for a $10 billion infusion from Congress to continue operating, but talks between Democrats and Republicans over a broad pandemic relief package that could have included that money have broken down.

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