The Election – Is Success Only On The Back Of The USPS?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Election 2020

A lot of focus has been placed on the USPS for the success of mail-in ballots on the election.  Accusations of fraud, inability to handle volumes, sabotage and more have been made.  In reality, the USPS is only one of three entities that are involved in the voting process. Read on to find out who the other players are and how they figure into not only this election but all others.

The Government -States/Counties

Government is responsible for a number of areas related to mailed ballots:

  1. Keeping voter rolls up-to-date
    States/Counties are responsible for keeping voter information up-to-date. This includes:
  • Adding new voters
  • Changing addresses
  • Removing voters (e.g., moved out of state, deceased, etc.)
40 million people move

Databases such as Dept of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Administration and Election Registration and Information Center (for member States) are used.  Mail list integrity depends on how frequently updates are made and how close to mail dates.  Accuracy varies from state to state.  States that regularly use mail ballots (such as Colorado) have an effective process to keep the voter rolls in good shape.

Note:  Accuracy of mailing lists directly impacts mailed ballots.  Inaccurate information results in voters not receiving ballots, ballots delivered to the wrong address or delivered to deceased individuals. 

2. Issuing ballots
Individual States/Counties choose how ballots will be delivered.  First-Class Mail is more expensive and is delivered in 2-5 days; Marketing Mail (including non-profit mail) takes 3-10 days but is less expensive.  States/Counties prefer Marketing Mail to save taxpayer money.
Some States/Counties knowingly send ballots to voters even if they have moved out of state.  This can result in fraud.

Note: Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, has indicated the Postal Service will deliver all ballots as First-Class even though States will pay for Marketing Mail rates.

3. Educating Voters
States advise constituents when ballots must be returned to be included in the vote, which varies by State.  There are two options – ballots must either be postmarked by election day or received by election day. It is the State’s responsibility to effectively inform voters what is required.

NOTE:  States must educate voters on ballot requirements and advise them to return ballots at least 10 days before election day.

4. Counting ballots
Counties automate the process of opening and matching ballot signatures.  States that do not typically handle mail in ballots must acquire this equipment – virtually impossible at the last minute. 

Note:  the USPS is not involved in vote counting, only delivering ballots. 

Bottom line:  The quality of State’s mailing lists directly impacts who receives ballots.  How well they educate constituents regarding when ballots must be received impacts the vote. Counting votes is up to the States and will be slowed based on available equipment.  The USPS has no control over these issues.

Printers

Printers produce approximately 200 million ballots for the election.  There are a limited number of printers who can handle such large-scale efforts and have both the security and quality control measures in place.  Without a high level of quality control, duplicate ballots can be generated and mailed.   

Bottom line:  Duplicate ballots can be put in the mail stream if quality controls are not in place.   

USPS

The Postal Service is the caboose of this train and their performance is impacted by the above factors.  Luckily, they are highly automated and can handle enormous volumes.  Consider these facts:

  • USPS handles 45 million single piece First-Class letters* daily.
  • The volume of holiday cards (1.3 billion**) far exceeds the mail-in ballot (200 million) in about the same timeframe.
  • First-Class letter volumes have declined (16.2% from 2016 to 2019*). the USPS has plenty of capacity to handle the increased volume from mailed election ballots.
  • First-Class mail is processed exclusively by equipment, which speeds up processing.  All pieces are sorted and put in correct sequence for the mail carrier to deliver.

Admittedly, there has been some operational issues affecting mail delivery since July of this year.  There are a number of factors impacting USPS performance:

Did you know - mail
  • COVID-19 – over 40,000 USPS workers have been affected by the Corona virus due either to acquiring the illness or being quarantined due to exposure from a co-worker.
  • Air transport slowdown – the pandemic reduced the number of flights that move the mail.
  • Unions – restrictions do not allow the USPS to move people from one position to another to cover absent personnel.  There have also been soft strikes (e.g., blue flu) to protest the elimination of overtime at the Post Office.

Bottom line:  the Postal Service is more than capable of delivering high volumes of mail on a daily basis.   Postmaster DeJoy has reversed planned changes at the USPS until after the election to ensure ballots are delivered on time.  Deliveries have started to improve. 

For more information debunking a number of accusations leveled at the Postal Service, check out this blog:  Postal myths debunked

Bottom line, success is dependent on all parties involved, not just the USPS.

*2019 USPS Postal Facts

**Dec 10, 2019 Link.USPS.com, About the Business, Season’s Greetings

Other resources:

National Association of Secretaries of State Voter registration maintenance requirements: https://www.nass.org/sites/default/files/reports/nass-report-voter-reg-maintenance-final-dec17.pdf