Updates on the USPS Service Performance Reports

SteveBlog, Slideshow

We’re tracking all the reports the Postal Service has been submitting on service performance, the processing of ballots, and other data being shared in the various lawsuits. The Postal Service’s weekly on-time service performance reports submitted in Jones v USPS can be found here. The daily reports being submitted in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP are here. There have also been reports made public by requests via FOIA and the PRC. All the performance reports are here.

November 7, 2020

The Postal Service has submitted its weekly service performance reports in Jones. You can find them here.

The First Class score for the nation as a whole was 81.57 percent, up slightly from the week before, when it was 80.85 percent. Since the week of July 11, when scores dropped due to operational changes, First Class has averaged 84.77 percent. That’s compared to the 92 percent for First Class in FY 2019 and FY 2020 before operational changes went into effect. Here’s a chart showing First Class service performance since the first of the year.

The scores on Election Mail have been significantly better. It will be a couple of weeks before we see the report for the week of the election itself, but here’s a table with the scores through the week of Oct. 24. Note that these are processing scores, not on-time delivery scores, and the numbers only includes scores for mailpieces that have been properly identified by the mailer as election mail, outbound ballots, or inbound ballots and if it adhered to Service Performance Measurement business rules.

November 6, 2020

The Postal Service’s daily reports on service performance, election mail, and late/extra trips (submitted as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP) can be found here.

One note about these daily reports on election mail. Some news reports are looking at these reports, misinterpreting the data and saying things like this: “The data based on scans of ballot envelopes that were filed in Sulivan’s court Wednesday suggested that in South Florida, just 85.12% of the mail-in ballots were delivered on Election Day….  In central Pennsylvania, just 61.3% of the mail-ballots in the postal system were delivered on time, based on the scan data in the court filing shows. In Philadelphia, slightly more than 66% of the mail-in ballots had been delivered on Election Day. In Atlanta 82.2% percent of the mail-in ballots were delivered on Election Day, the court filing shows.”

The daily numbers being reported do not indicate how much of the mail was delivered on time, i.e., within the service standard of two or three days. These numbers are processing scores, i.e., the percent of the ballots that went through the processing network on time. They don’t encompass the “first mile” (the step between a voter dropping a ballot in the mail and its arrival at a processing center) or the “last mile” (from post office to letter carrier to destination).

The processing scores therefore do not represent the percentage that was delivered on time. It’s possible that some of the mail that was “late” going through the processing system did get delivered on time thanks to the extraordinary measures the Postal Service used to expedite ballot mail. It’s also important to recognize that even the processing scores are not entirely reliable for various reasons, including the fact that some ballots didn’t get an exit scan in the processing system because they went through an expedited process to the election center destination.

The Washington Post has been careful about how it explains the numbers and makes it clear that the numbers are processing scores. For example, one recent article put it this way: “Nearly 7 percent of ballots in U.S. Postal Service sorting facilities on Tuesday were not processed on time for submission to election officials, according to data the agency filed Wednesday in federal court, potentially leaving tens of thousands of ballots caught in the mail system during an especially tight presidential race. The Postal Service reported the timely processing — which includes most mail-handling steps outside of pickup and delivery — of 93.3 percent of ballots on Election Day, its best processing score in several days, but still well below the 97-percent target that postal and voting experts say the agency should hit.”

The Postal Service has been posting weekly reports that do show on time delivery performance, but these reports come out a couple of weeks later. You can find these reports here. The report for the week of Oct. 24 will be added tomorrow. It will take a couple more weeks before we see the service performance numbers for election week.

November 5, 2020

The Postal Service’s daily reports on service performance, election mail, and late/extra trips (submitted as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP) can be found here.

The Election Mail service performance report shows an inbound ((those being returned by voters to election centers) processing score of  93.20 percent on Nov. 3 and 94.5 percent for Nov. 4, but that shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that 6 or 7 percent of the ballots were late being delivered to election centers. As the Postal Service has explained to the court, these scores aren’t reliable for various reasons. (See this explanatory notice, and the notice that accompanies today’s reports.)

The variance report on Election Mail shows a wide range of scores, but again, one hesitates to make too much of these numbers because of all the reasons cited by the Postal Service.

Service performance on First Class and Marketing Mail shows the daily scores for the past 10 days. The on-time processing score for First Class was unusually low on Nov. 3, 65.37 percent, but back up to 88.87 percent on Nov. 4.  The average score for Oct. 24 – Nov. 4 was 82 percent. That’s about 10 percent below normal.

The Extra trip report shows 831 trips on Nov. 3 and 761 for Nov. 4. The average for the past 34 days has been 804, so those numbers are just about average — but far below the period before operational changes were made in July. The Late trip report shows 2356 trips on Nov. 3 and 2568 for Nov. 4. The average for the past 34 days has been 1930, so those numbers are well above average for the month, but again, far below pre-July.

In response to court order to use Express Mail in certain cases, the Postal Service also filed a report on data concerning the number of ballots received between November 1, 2020 and November 3, 2020 that were put into Express Mail. The report shows about 10,655 ballots were expedited via Express. 

November 4, 2020,

The Postal Service’s daily reports on service performance, election mail, and late/extra trips (submitted as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP) can be found here.

The Election Mail service performance report shows that inbound ballots (those being returned by voters to election centers) had a processing score of 93.25 percent on November 3. That could mean that over six percent of the ballots did not meet the service standard and would be technically late. It’s not clear, though, if this means some ballots did not reach election centers in time to be counted. Here are the scores on the national level. Check the report itself for district level scores.

The variance report on Election Mail is being cited in some places (like this tweet) as evidence that the Postal Service failed to deliver ballots by the election day deadline. But that is an oversimplified reading of what the numbers show. As the Postal Service explained in a filing yesterday, these numbers are “unreliable” for a number of reasons. For example, some ballots are scanned when they enter the system but then receive “a special sort to expedite delivery, and thereby do not receive a last processing scan that would allow them to be captured by the performance scores.” It will take some time before we learn how many ballots were actually delivered after the state deadline and how many of these were delivered after the service standard (two or three days, depending).

Service performance on First Class and Marketing Mail shows the daily scores for the past nine days. Scores on Nov. 3.

That score of 77.17 percent for First Class mail is the lowest of the past nine days and far below the normal 92 percent, but the Postal Service has repeatedly warned that the daily numbers aren’t reliable. The Postal Service has said previously that the numbers for regular mail are down because of all the attention being given to Election Mail.

November 3, 2020

The Postal Service’s daily reports on service performance, election mail, and late/extra trips (submitted as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP) can be found here.

The reports submitted this morning show some continuing problems with processing scores on ballot mail. Here’s a table showing the national scores since Oct. 24, 2020.

The scores in some districts are much lower than these national averages. For example, on Nov. 2, for inbound ballots (those being returned from voters to election centers), the Appalachian District scored 73.47 percent; Kentuckiana, 69.81 percent; Detroit, 77.66 percent; and Colorado/Wyoming, 54.28 percent.

The problem of low scores on processing ballots was discussed yesterday at a hearing before Judge Sullivan, who’s presiding in Vote Forward, Richardson and Vote Forward. The plaintiffs were not satisfied with the Postal Service’s explanations. You can read about the hearing on our daily update page on the lawsuits; it’s in the afternoon update for Nov. 2.

The variance report on processing ballots shows that in most districts over 95 percent of the inbound ballots are being processed within 3 days after the service standard (usually 2 days for inbound ballots), but there are some exceptions, like Chicago District and Colorado/Wyoming.

Service performance on First Class and Marketing Mail continues to score below normal. Here’s a chart showing the past eight days:

For First Class, the average processing score during this period was 83.28 percent. That’s the processing score, not the regular end-to-end score reported weekly by the Postal Service in press releases and in filings for the Jones case.  The regular score for the week of Oct. 17 was 80.85 percent, and on Thursday the Postal Service will post the score for the week of Oct. 24. Based on these daily processing scores, the weekly score may show some improvement, but probably nothing approaching the norm of 92 percent.

The report on late and extra trips brings us to Nov. 1, so here’s a chart showing the number of late and extra trips per week since March.

The chart shows an upswing in both late and extra trips, which may be due to the extraordinary measures the Postal Service is taking to process election mail and also to the fact that it has rescinded the Cintron Guidelines, which caused the delays back in July.

November 2, 2020

Today the Postal Service filed another of the daily reports that it agreed to submit as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP.  These reports can be found here.

The Postal Service’s notice about these reports warns that daily numbers are unreliable and inaccurate, so they have to be taken with a grain of salt. But the numbers aren’t great. For the nation, the processing scores for inbound ballots (those that are sent by voters to elections offices) on Oct. 31 was only 90.76 percent and for outbound ballots (sent from election centers to voters), 85.58 percent. Both scores are well below the six previous days’ scores. Here are the nation numbers from the Election Mail report:

The variance report on election mail shows that in most districts, 98 or 99 percent of the inbound ballots were delivered within 3 extra days (beyond the service standard). The scores for outbound ballots are lower and more inconsistent.

For First Class mail, the processing score for Oct. 31 was 85.58 percent, about 5 percent above the week’s average but well below the 92 percent First Class averaged last year and this year before operational changes in July.

The late and extra trip report filed this morning shows a significant jump in extra trips on Oct. 31. The average for the past three weeks was about 850; on Oct. 31, the number jumped to 1,347. This may be related to all the pressure to get election mail delivered on time, and it may have to do with rescinding the Cintron Guidelines on transportation policies (as ordered by the courts).

In Washington v Trump, the Postal Service (as explained in the notice) has shared All Clear reports for Election Mail in three districts: Detroit, Lakeland, and Westshore, as well as All Clear surveys for “non-compliant” facilities (explained in this notice).

November 1, 2020

Today the Postal Service filed another of the daily reports that it agreed to submit as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP.  These reports can be found here.

The processing score for First Class mail for the six days Oct. 24 – Oct. 30 averaged 81.6 percent, roughly in line with the service performance score of 80.85 percent reported for the week of Oct. 17. It doesn’t appear that we’ll see much of an uptick in the weekly report for Oct. 24; we may even see a slight dropoff.

For those same six days, the Election Mail report shows that processing scores for inbound ballots (those that are sent by voters to elections offices) averaged 94.73 percent and for outbound ballots (sent from election centers to voters), 93.26 percent.

The trip report shows that the number of late trips has increased over the month of October, but it’s not clear if anything significant happened over the past few days, after the court order rescinding the Cintron transportation guidelines. Aside from a spike around Columbus Day weekend, the number of extra trips seems to have been constant during the month as well.

Here’s the big picture on late and extra trips per week since March 1. The big drop off occurred in July, when the Postmaster General ordered changes to transportation policies and the Cintron Guidelines went into effect. The number of late trips began increasing in September, the increase continued into October, and it has continued over the past few days as well, after the chart ends on Oct. 25. The number of extra trips has increased slightly since the drop off in July.

There have been several developments in the some of the lawsuits as well, discussed on our regular update page, here.

October 31, 2020

As per a new order issued by the court in NAACP on Oct. 30 (discussed on our update page about the lawsuits), the Postal Service is filing additional materials about service performance.  You can find folders with these reports on Google Drive here. They cover Oct. 24 to Oct. 29.

The folder contains a notice explaining the reports, the Daily Service Performance Report for First Class and Marketing Mail, the Election Mail Service Performance Report (inbound and outbound), the late and extra trip report, and a district-by-district breakdown of the volume of inbound ballots along with variance scores, i.e., the processing score for on-time, one, two and three days late. In the notice, the Postal Service cautions that the daily numbers are not entirely accurate or reliable and they are subject to change.

As explained in this notice, the Postal Service is also providing explanations for those districts where Election Mail processing scores for inbound ballots were below 90 percent on each of the previous two days or below 80 percent on the previous day. There’s an Employment Availability Report showing relatively low availability in the seven districts where scores fell below those thresholds: Central Pennsylvania, Colorado/Wyoming, Detroit, Greater Indiana, Kentuckiana, Northern New England, and Oklahoma. The Postal Service says it has “worked diligently to employ corrective measures to resolve these issues.”

As reported in a press release earlier this week, on-time performance for First Class mail for the week of Oct. 17 fell to 80.85 percent — the lowest score of the year and probably one of the lowest in a long time. By way of explanation, the Postal Service points to “an overall increase in mail volumes overall mail volume of all types, COVID-19 impacts, the Oct. 12 federal holiday and ongoing efforts to prioritize and advance the nation’s ballots.”

The Postal Service has also submitted its weekly service performance reports in Jones. You can find them here. While the First Class score for the nation as a whole was poor — 80.85 percent — the district report shows that in some districts it was even worse. The Capitol Metro district had a score of 73.69 percent and the Eastern district had a score of 75.39 percent.

The variance report submitted in Jones shows that an extra day or two brings up those scores considerably. Here’s a chart showing the scores for single-piece First Class with a 2-day service standard, going back to the first of the year.

As the chart shows, with just one extra day, service performance reaches the 96 percent target for First Class mail fairly consistently, with the exception of that period in July-August when scores fell after operational changes were made, and then again recently. With two extra days, scores top 98 percent.

For the week of Oct. 17, 2020, the Postal Service is reporting a processing score for inbound ballots (those that are sent by voters to elections offices) of 94.90 percent, and a processing score for outbound ballots (sent from election centers to voters) of 86.73 percent; for non-ballot Election Mail, the score was 95.26 percent. Here’s a recap of the Election Mail scores for the past few weeks. Note that this only includes scores for mailpieces that have been properly identified by the mailer as election mail, outbound ballots, or inbound ballots and if it adhered to Service Performance Measurement business rules.

October 30, 2020

The Postal Service has filed the third of the daily reports that it agreed to submit as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP.  You can find all of these daily reports here. If you’re reviewing the numbers, it’s a good idea to read the notice that explains the reports.

The report on election mail shows a processing score (not end to end) for inbound ballots (those that are sent by voters to elections offices) of 95.21 percent for Oct. 29, down from 97.08 percent the previous day, and 93.84 percent for outbound ballots (sent from election centers to voters), down from 96.76 percent the previous day.

The report on service performance shows a processing score of 88.8 percent for First Class for Oct. 29, up from 78.24 percent the day before. The report on late and extra trips shows a slight uptick in the number of such trips, but it’s only slight and there’s not much evidence that rescinding the Cintron Guidelines on transportation has had much of an effect.

October 29, 2020

The Postal Service has filed the second of the daily reports that it agreed to submit as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP.  You can find all of these daily reports here. If you’re reviewing the numbers, it’s a good idea to read the cover letter that explains the reports.

One number that jumps right out of the report on First Class service performance is the score for the week of Oct. 17, the most recent of the weekly reports. For that week, only 83.26 percent of First Class mail was processed on time.

But it turns out that the score for that week was actually even lower. According to a USPS press release today, “Due to an increase in overall mail volume of all types, COVID-19 impacts, the Oct. 12 federal holiday and ongoing efforts to prioritize and advance the nation’s ballots, First-Class Mail service performance was 80.85 percent for the week of Oct. 17 through Oct. 23.”

Here’s a chart showing First Class service performance since June, based on the reports submitted in Jones v USPS through Oct. 10, plus today’s press release for the week of Oct. 17. Things don’t seem to be heading in the right direction. That score of 80.85 percent for the week of Oct. 17 is the lowest of the year, even worse than when operational changes caused scores to plummet in July.

Before making too much of today’s reports in NAACP, it’s important to note, as the Postal Service explains in the cover letter, that the data is “incomplete, subject to change, and overall, is not an accurate representation of the Postal Service’s performance, for several reasons.” Among them is that today’s scores are only about the performance of mail within the Postal Service’s operational network and don’t include First and Last Mile. That’s probably why the press release and NAACP report have different scores for the week of Oct. 17.

There have been other inconsistencies as well. In the report submitted for Jones, the score for First Class for the week of Oct. 3 was 86.15 percent, and for the week of Oct. 10, 85.58 percent. In the report submitted today in NAACP, the score for First Class for the week of Oct. 3 was 88.76 percent, and for the week of Oct 10, 88.75 percent. Again, that may be because the NAACP scores are for the processing phase of operations while the Jones numbers are end-to-end.

There was also a discrepancy between the Jones numbers and scores reported to the PRC a few weeks ago, as I noted in a motion to the PRC pointing this out. The Postal Service explained that this discrepancy was due to the fact that the numbers were extracted from the database at different times.

Today’s numbers for election mail are better than the overall scores for First Class, but it’s hard to know what to make of them because the Postal Service has attached even more caveats and disclaimers to these numbers. But here are national numbers from this morning’s report:

According to an article in Government Executive, the Postal Service, in addition to submitting the daily reports, is meeting daily with the plaintiffs in the NAACP suit and presiding Judge Emmet Sullivan to go over operational and performance data.

October 28, 2020

This morning, the Postal Service filed the first of the daily reports that it agreed to file as part of the Joint Order from the courts in Richardson, Vote Forward, and NAACP yesterday. Here are the reports: