VOTE BY MAIL 101

APWU members have been fighting relentlessly to defend the integrity of Vote-by-Mail. In the midst of COVID-19, it now is more important than ever that we protect our democracy. Voters need options to cast their ballots safely, including opportunities to vote from home. In this election, voting by mail will be a key part of making sure working people’s voices are heard.

Check out our Q&A about the process!
 

Q: What is “vote by mail”?

A: Every state already has some form of voting by mail, though the rules—and even the terminology—differ from state to state. Some states refer to the process as “absentee voting,” and it sometimes is referred to as “voting at home.” Whatever the name, the core idea is the same: voters receive a ballot in the mail, cast it from their own home, and either mail it back to the elections office for counting or drop it off at a designated location.

 

Q: Is voting by mail new?

A: Voting by mail is not at all new. In fact, Americans have been voting by mail since the Civil War. 

According to the Save the Vote campaign, “[i]n 2018, more than 31 million Americans - over one-fourth of all voters - cast their ballots by mail. Since 2000 more than 250 million votes have been cast via mailed-out ballots, in all 50 states.”

Many voters have already cast their ballots by mail this election. Some 26% of 2018 ballots were cast by mail, and five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington—will conduct all-mail ballot elections this year (were planning to before the pandemic). At least 21 other states allow smaller elections, like school board races, to be conducted entirely by mail. Some states, however, have policies that make it unnecessarily difficult to vote by mail.

 

Q: Is voting by mail safe? Is it susceptible to voter fraud?

A: Voter fraud is exceedingly rare in any form, including when it comes to voting by mail. According to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan policy institute, incident rates of voter fraud in the United States are between 0.00004% and 0.00009%. Voting by mail is safe and uses the same kinds of security measures as in-person ballots, like individual barcodes. States also offer secure drop boxes and use post-election audits to further reduce any chance of fraud. 

If incidents of voter fraud are so low, why do we hear about it in the news? Inaccurate claims of rampant voter fraud have been used for years to justify restrictive measures that make it harder for working people and people of color to vote - suppressing their vote. The very rare occasions when fraud happens are repeated and sensationalized to scare voters and diligitamatize elections.
 

 

Q: If voting by mail is safe, secure, and easy, why doesn’t everyone vote by mail?

Although all states offer some voting by mail, many states have laws that make the option difficult to exercise. For example, 16 states still require voters to provide an excuse in order to request an absentee ballot. Other states have rules that make it difficult to request a mail ballot, even if an excuse is not required. The exact changes required will differ from state to state, depending on what rules are in place now—but in every state, voters need to obtain their mail ballot easily; have the postage prepaid by the government; be allowed to submit their ballot by mail until the end of voting on Election Day and have it count; and be able to designate a person of their choice to help deliver their ballot. 

 

Q: Can the Postal Service handle all the mail-in ballots?

A: YES, the Postal Service has ample capacity to handle election mail. Since the Civil War, the Postal Service has delivered ballots and enabled this country's democratic process. In 2016, 139 million Americans voted in the general election and nearly one-fourth (32 million) voted on mailed-out ballots. Even if every American voter returned their ballot by mail, the Postal Service has more than enough capacity to deliver the extra volume:

●    In 2019, the Postal Service delivered an average of 470 million pieces per day, six days a week—and scaled up to deliver more than 650 million pieces of mail per day during the peak holiday period in December.

●    Currently, USPS is delivering about 350 million to 400 million pieces of mail per day—meaning it has considerable available capacity to handle a surge in mail volume.

●    The USPS has affirmed its capability: “The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume.” (CNN, 8/3/20)

 

Q: What is the Postal Service doing to ensure every mail-in ballot is counted on time?

A: The Postal Service has affirmed that every ballot will receive first class treatment. This election season, USPS has implemented “expanded processing procedures, extra transportation, extra delivery and collection trips and overtime to ensure that Election Mail, including ballots, reaches its intended destination in a timely manner.” 

As with any high-volume season, the Postal Service will make the necessary adjustments to process and deliver vote-by-mail applications and incoming/outgoing ballots. Just like in previous elections, the Postal Service will ramp up delivery of mail-in ballots the week before November 3rd. Voters can rest assured that postal employees will treat ballots with the utmost care and concern.

 

Q: When it comes to processing election mail, what do Postal workers need to know?

A: It is critical that all ballot mail is handled correctly to avoid any negative impact on election results or the Postal Service. APWU members should be alert for the red Tag 57 and green Tag 191, even though their use is optional. Political mail, with or without the use of a Tag, must be expedited. Any delays in processing of political campaign mail must be reported. Do not let ballots be delayed for any reason. Ballots are not subject to the normal postage due procedures, and should never be delayed due to insufficient postage. It is very important that ballots are identified and processed timely to ensure ballots are returned to election offices within the allotted time for the vote to be counted.

 

Q: How can I vote by mail?

A: Once you’ve registered to vote or confirmed your registration, you can request an absentee ballot. Depending on your state, you can mail it in, drop it off at a polling location, submit it online, or drop it off at a ballot drop off location. This year, some states have all mail-in voting, some states don't require an excuse to request a mail-in ballot, and some states do require an excuse (working, sick, out of town). Be sure to check out this resource to see where your state stands on Vote-by-Mail.

 

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