Report: As States Prepared Mail-In Ballots, USPS Failed To Update 1.8M Addresses

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.Screengrab / CBS 17 / YouTube


For three weeks last month, the U.S. Postal Service failed to update the national change of address system.

From Aug. 10 to Aug. 30, the U.S. Postal Service stopped fully updating the national change of address system that most states use to keep their voter rolls current, TIME magazine reports.

  • The error lasted three weeks as election officials across the U.S. prepared to send out tens of millions of mail-in ballots.
  • A USPS spokesperson acknowledged the error and said at least 1.8 million new changes of address were not reflected in the database at the National Change of Address Linkage, or NCOALink.
  • About 3 percent of adults had moved as of early June, a Pew survey found, and 6 percent had someone move in with them due to the pandemic.
  • TIME reports that several states were unaware of the problem, which the USPS says was fixed on Sept. 14.

At least 43 states plus the District of Columbia use the USPS change of address database. Many, like Minnesota, face close presidential contests, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

  • The USPS spokesperson said mail carriers’ ability to forward “eligible” mail to a new address was not affected, but TIME noted that “Many states ban the forwarding of election ballots from an old address.”
  • This latest mistake, described in internal USPS emails as an unexplained “error,” follows scandal surrounding Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s cutbacks and operational changes earlier this summer.
  • Judge Stanley Bastian ruled earlier this month that DeJoy’s moves constituted “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the postal service” intended “to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections.”

In early September, several of the companies licensed to use the system alerted administrators that they were seeing drop-offs of as much as 95% in the number of changes of address for August.

  • One vendor told TIME, “It’s a significant screw-up.”
  • The USPS spokesperson said: “Additional enhancements being implemented into NCOALink quality control processes will detect future occurrences of this type.”

Read the full report.


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