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USPS's handling of mail-in ballots was 'gross negligence': Fmr. USPS Board of Governors Chair

Former USPS Board of Governors Chair David Fineman joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to discuss the postal service's handling of mail-in ballots.

“The assumption that there are unaccounted ballots within the Postal Service network is inaccurate. These ballots were delivered in advance of the election deadlines. We employed extraordinary measures to deliver ballots directly to local boards of elections." - USPS

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: We do have some breaking news right now out of the state of Michigan. A Michigan judge saying that they are going to deny the Trump campaign's request to halt valid ballot counting. Again, this is some breaking news right out of the state of Michigan. The campaign had been trying to stop the state from continuing to count ballots.

Remember, this is a state that the Associated Press had already called for former Vice President Joe Biden. And we're now seeing a lot of legal challenges coming out of the Trump campaign, one of them directed at that state. It seems as if one judge, at least, right now, is not inclined to follow with the Trump campaign's request to stop those ballot counts.

Well, on the topic of ballots, the US Postal Service has come under fire for missing a deadline to deliver all ballots by Tuesday afternoon. According to the USPS, they did not deliver 300,000 ballots to the polls. So we're joined now by David Fineman, former chair of the United States Postal Service board of governors. So David, 300,000 ballots went missing, did not make it to the polls. Why do you think it is that the Postal Service missed that deadline?

DAVID FINEMAN: I think they were just not prepared for this election. We had three congressional hearings, four separate federal lawsuits. You would think that those were-- people who were in charge of the United States Postal Service would have made sure that they had adequate staff and plans in place to deliver ballots to the appropriate places. It's beyond my realm of understanding as to why 300,000 ballots were not delivered.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Postal Service attorneys said that they could not do a sweep of these processing centers to find these missing ballots by the deadline. They couldn't do that and also fulfill their obligations to continue to process and deliver mail. It seems that what you're saying is they weren't prepared, so that explanation might make sense. But in your mind, as you're looking at it, frankly, was the Postal Service just absolutely negligent in their duty to deliver these ballots to the ballot boxes?

DAVID FINEMAN: I think that-- I think it's more than negligence. I think it's gross negligence. Why can't they deliver ballots on time when they were told months and months ago that that would be their obligation? And they were put on notice. As I said before, three congressional hearings, four separate lawsuits in which federal judges gave detailed opinions as to what they should do.

A good example of this, I think in Judge Sullivan's courtroom, in the District of Columbia, there was testimony that on Sunday, there was extra staff that was going to be put on to deliver ballots. The question was asked, well, why don't you deliver-- why wasn't this done before? And there didn't seem to be an answer to that.

You were in the middle of a pandemic. It was clear that there were going to be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ballots that had to be delivered. And I would just say, think about who you are. What would you think if your ballot was not delivered? I would say that it's a violation of your civil rights. That's an inalienable right, the right to vote in America.

KRISTIN MYERS: So David, a lot of Democrats had been afraid of something just like this happening, particularly with a Trump ally, Louis DeJoy, essentially as the postmaster general leading the Postal Service through delivering these ballots. I know you call this gross negligence. I'm wondering if you at all think that perhaps this was purposeful.

DAVID FINEMAN: At this point in time, it's hard for me to say that. I wouldn't say that. But I will say this. In 1970, the Postal Service was reorganized so that there would be a board of governors of five of one party, four of another. And we would make it nonpolitical. We would have a nonpolitical Postal Service.

I served on the Postal Service. I was chairman. I was nominated by President Clinton. I was chairman during President Bush's administration. Never once did I hear from the White House. This is something that has never happened before. And there's a reason for that. And I think to take the Postal Service and make it into a political organization is just a drastic mistake, not necessarily because of what someone will do.

But it's because you're asking that question. That is, the American public should not feel that there is an appearance of an impropriety. Not necessarily an impropriety, but even the appearance of an impropriety makes people skeptical about the Postal Service.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, we will have to leave that there. We will, of course, be continuing to watch this as these lawsuits continue to drag out. David Fineman, former chair of the Postal Service's board of governors, thanks so much for joining us today.

DAVID FINEMAN: Thank you for having me.