WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to sweep some mail processing facilities on Tuesday afternoon for delayed ballots and immediately dispatch them for delivery in election battlegrounds such Pennsylvania and Florida among other places.
Affected by the order are central Pennsylvania, northern New England, greater South Carolina, south Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama and Wyoming as well as the cities of Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Lakeland, Florida.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered postal officials to complete the inspections by 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) and certify by 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) that no ballots were left behind.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by groups such as Vote Forward, a voting rights organization, and Latino community groups.
Many states will only count mailed ballots that are received by the end of Tuesday in their election results.
In August, USPS suspended cost-cutting moves such as removing post boxes and mail processing machines implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, an ally of President Donald Trump. State attorneys general and civil rights groups said the changes would slow election mail delivery and make it difficult for voters to participate during the coronavirus pandemic.
The postal service has said it had delivered 122 million blank and completed ballots before Tuesday.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)