Amid rising concern about mail-in voting, Postal Service leaders, legal experts, and elections officials have laid out a some tips and best practices
This article is part of COURIER’s Your Vote 2020 hub. For more stories from each of the battleground states, along with national reporting, visit the site here.
For months, President Donald Trump has leveled baseless attacks on the safety and credibility of mail-in voting and the United States Postal Service (USPS), the agency responsible for delivering tens of millions of mail-in ballots ahead of November’s election.
Even though each of those claims have been debunked time and time again, Trump has (falsely) stated that mail-in balloting allows for abuse and fraud and would benefit Democrats. He even installed a long-time Republican donor, Louis DeJoy, as postmaster general, raising concern that he would undermine the agency.
Those efforts have come as Trump’s poll numbers have plummeted, sparking fear that the president is setting the stage to dispute the validity of mail-in-ballots altogether, which could potentially tip the election his way.
Trump’s attacks may be working, as many voters have expressed concern over mail-in voting and some Americans have reported days-long delays in USPS deliveries of medication, paychecks, and absentee ballots as a result of one of DeJoy’s new policies.
On Friday, those fears grew as DeJoy overhauled the entire agency, reassigning or removing 23 USPS executives in a move that analysts said centralizes power around DeJoy.
If you’re one of the many people who wants to vote-by-mail, but is nervous about doing so after Trump’s attacks on the process, there’s some good news. Backlash is growing and lawmakers of both parties are now pushing back on DeJoy’s changes to the agency. More importantly, USPS leaders, legal experts, and elections officials have laid out some tips and best practices for mail-in voting.
Ensure That Your Ballot Is Counted by Requesting and Returning Your Ballot Early
Acknowledging the recent delays in service—which they also insist are temporary—the Postal Service advised voters to request ballots early and return their completed ballots as soon as possible in order to avoid any risk of their vote going uncounted.
“In order to allow sufficient time for voters to receive, complete and return ballots via the mail, and to facilitate timely receipt of completed ballots by election officials, the Postal Service strongly recommends that jurisdictions immediately communicate and advise voters to request ballots at the earliest point allowable but no later than 15 days prior to the election date,” USPS spokesman Tim Norman told Chicago-area outlet WTTW.
Local election officials have made similar recommendations.
Longtime elections attorney Marc Elias on Thursday also issued four recommendations to voters worried about their ballots being delayed by the USPS slowdown:
Vote Early in Person if You’re Worried About Your Ballot Being Counted
Forty-one states allow some form of early voting at polling locations, with some starting as early as 45 days before Election Day. By voting early, you’re more likely to avoid long lines and crowds. Check with your local election office to see what early voting options they provide.
If They Are Available in Your State, Use a Ballot Drop Box
Where available, use a ballot drop box, which provides a safe, secure, and convenient alternative for voters to return their ballot. The boxes are locked, anchored in place, and typically under video surveillance or physical protection. Election officials directly collect ballots from these boxes, removing the USPS as a middleman.
Check with your local election office to see if there are ballot drop boxes in your community.
Hand-Deliver Your Ballot to an Election Office or Polling Site to Make Sure Your Ballot Is Counted
Nearly every state allows voters to return their signed and sealed ballots to their local election office and/or nearby polling site. This, like a ballot drop box, removes the USPS from the process. Check with your local election office to see the closest location where you can drop off your ballot.
Organize Community Ballot Collection if It’s Allowed in Your State
Many states allow family members, election officials, and approved organizations to return a voter’s completed ballot and submit the ballot on voter’s behalf. You can check who is eligible to collect your ballot in your state here.