BIPP: The USPS can ensure a free and fair 2020 election

Annie Maley, BIPP Intern

For months, one of the most dominant stories in the news regarding the 2020 U.S. Presidential election has not been campaign events, party conventions or even the candidates themselves. Instead, one huge question has loomed in the distance: How does the United States handle voting in a socially-distant world? As it stands, around 150 million Americans are registered to vote, and in 2016, nearly 33 million Americans voted by mail, according to the Brookings Institution. Long poll lines and COVID-19 exposure are widespread and legitimate fears going into November for many voters, so it is likely that more will opt for the mail-in option this year. Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump voiced concerns over the ability of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to carry out a large scale mail-in voting process. In an August Fox News interview, the president was quoted in response to Congressional Democrats’ attempt to increase funding for the Post Office as saying, “They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” Despite the misinformation that has been cast by the President against the USPS, the likelihood of voter fraud by mail is exceptionally low. Moreover, the issue of getting ballots to states from voters is not an issue of capacity for the Postal Service, but rather management.

The probability of voter fraud by mail is significantly low. In order to obtain a ballot, you must be a registered voter, and for most states you must receive the ballot at the address you are registered. Furthermore, signatures are required on the ballot envelope by the voter, and the forging of any kind of voter information (impersonating a voter, forging a name, etc.) is a criminal offense. In many states, such as Colorado, voting by mail is a widespread practice with no evidence of voter fraud, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. 

As for the second issue of capacity, the Postal Service can more than handle extra absentee ballots, even if all 150 million registered Americans voted by mail in 2020. According to the Atlantic, the USPS delivers around 500 million pieces of mail every day, and during Christmas time they process as much as three billion pieces of mail per week. The issue with the Post Office is not ballot capacity or voter fraud as the president would like many Americans to think. 

In reality, new changes brought on by newly Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pose more of a threat to the election than fraud and Postal Service capacity combined. Reports of cuts to overtime hours, delays in collection of mail and leaving mail behind at the Post Office have led to some recent slowdowns in service times; however, these issues are an effect of the management of the Post Office, not the actual capacity it has for delivering mail. Americans should still mail in ballots and feel confident taking part in the election, they just need to plan ahead. The Postal Service released some guidelines to ensure every ballot counts despite their recent delays. They encourage voters to mail their ballots as early as possible, but no later than one week prior to their state’s election due dates to ensure that their ballot is received in time. 

For more information on voting in the 2020 Election, attend the political science department’s Mauch Fellowship Zoom this Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. Follow the Mauch Fellowship on Instagram @Mauchfellows or email [email protected] for links to Zoom events, to find out about voter registration, locate polling places and more.

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