Activists have begun protesting to demand that an investigation is conducted, in order to determine whether or not every vote that was cast via absentee ballot made it through the mail facility that was locked down by Cesar Sayoc's pipe bomb threats last month.
Separate groups of demonstrators convened outside of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department and the Opa-Locka mail distribution center on Friday, November 9, to draw attention to the possibility that the impact of Sayoc's threats might have prevented hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of mail-in ballots from being counted on Election Day. Their suspicions have been stoked by accounts from anonymous employees who've blown the whistle with reports of a struggle to process all of the mail backed up on them due to understaffing. The story was broken in an article by the Miami New Times.
In addition to publishing photographs that appear to show piles of envelopes bearing ballots inside of the 550 Fisherman Street facility, the New Times released a video clip it obtained in which one of the Opa-Locka postal clerks attested to seeing entire shipments of ballots that were still sitting in the building an hour or two before the election results were read on national television.
"We had ballots. Mail-in ballots sitting on the floor, like, getting ready for the truck to take it to mail it away [...] Lots of ballots. Like, we've got these things called GPCs that the mail goes into, and it was full of mail-in ballots," the worker said, before insisting that the votes "couldn't have been counted."Miami-Dade County Elections Department officials are disputing the claims that the ballots could have been holed up at Opa-Locka for weeks. MDCED spokesperson Suzy Trutie maintains that after the Sayoc scare, on-going pick-ups resumed from the facility, and she recalls the department retrieving ballots on three different occasions leading up to Election Day. Meanwhile, the district's congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson, has stated that she got in contact with the United States Postal Service about the matter, and was told that any envelopes that remained had accumulated because they were not postmarked by the November 6 deadline.
The Miami Herald reports that authorities have indeed begun an investigation since receiving the complaints, with USPS spokeswoman Debra J. Fetterly confirming that responsible parties within the agency are aware and are working to "verify that all ballots have been handled in accordance to USPS service standards."
Caroline Thompson, of the Advancement Project, is one of the activists taking charge to hold Opa-Locka, the election department, and USPS to account.
"What we are demanding is some transparency," the Herald quotes her as stating. "Voters deserve to know if their ballots are sitting in a mailing facility."