As the 2020 election approaches, all eyes are on USPS. Mail-in voting will be more crucial to this year’s election than any before. However, vote-by-mail is a controversial topic, and the media has created a perfect storm around it. Some Democrats hail mail-in voting as crucial to our democracy; some Republicans decry it. President Trump has claimed the vote-by-mail process breeds fraudulent votes, and that it should be curbed. Protestors even gathered outside of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s home demanding that he resign after he announced major changes to the USPS network, such as the removal of sorting machines and the elimination of overtime. DeJoy then backtracked on instituting these changes to USPS until after election day, in an attempt to assuage fears around the election. All the while, Americans wonder if USPS can handle the enormous number of mail-in ballots, and if their vote will truly make a difference.
Spoiler alert: USPS can, and your vote does.
USPS Infrastructure Can Handle This Year’s Mail-In Ballots, Despite Media Reports
Americans shouldn’t believe any reports claiming that USPS can’t handle the mail-in voting volume. The truth is, if every citizen casts a ballot via mail this year, it wouldn’t even move the needle. Here’s why: let’s say every voting-age American citizen votes by mail in this election. That would inject roughly 209 million ballots into the USPS mail stream. While this may seem like a high surge, it’s really only a drop in the bucket compared to what USPS is used to handling every single day. On a typical business day, USPS already processes and delivers 181.9 million pieces of First-Class Mail. Therefore, a little over 200 million extra ballots over the course of a couple of months isn’t all that much.
It’s also worth mentioning that compared to holiday volumes, the number of ballots for this year’s election are largely insignificant. According to the USPS blog, the Postal Service processed more than 1.3 billion holiday greeting cards in the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2018. That’s billion, with a B. If the Postal Service can handle and deliver 1.3 billion holiday mail pieces, it can certainly handle 209 million ballots.
No, USPS Isn’t Extorting States to Make Extra Money
With all the conflicting reports swirling around in the media, some citizens are under the impression that USPS is using the higher number of vote-by-mail ballots in this year’s election to extort more money from states. However, this assumption is, once again, simply untrue.
Typically, states’ election departments send advertisements out as Marketing Mail. Costing only 20 cents per mail piece, Marketing Mail is a non-profit service which has a longer delivery standard. Oftentimes, states also send ballots as Marketing Mail, instead of First-Class Mail for 55 cents each. Marketing Mail takes much longer for delivery than First-Class Mail does. So, if a state mails out ballots mere days before the election, sending them as Marketing Mail simply won’t allow for these ballots to delivered and counted on time. USPS is now contacting election departments as a way of making them aware of these two different services. People have misconstrued this communication as “USPS can’t handle it,” and states have gone as far as to search for alternatives to the Postal Service for sending out ballots this year.
The truth is, nothing has changed about the mail-in voting process. USPS has delivered these messages to election officials ever since it introduced mail-in absentee ballots during the Civil War. Right now, it’s only a big deal now because USPS happens to be in the spotlight.
What About the New Postmaster General?
Speaking of the spotlight: new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has seen a lot of it recently. A lot of media outlets have reported that DeJoy is deliberately trying to derail USPS, and Democrats continue to push this (false) narrative. Democrats have accused DeJoy of significantly changing operations before the election, which they believe is a strategic move to ensure President Trump gets reelected. While his political affiliations are indeed Republican, the allegations that DeJoy is deliberately sabotaging USPS are unfounded. In actuality, the USPS Board of Governors elected DeJoy to the role of Postmaster General, not President Trump. Not to mention, the Board of Governors is a bi-partisan group comprised of both Democrats and Republicans.
The fact of the matter is, DeJoy took over USPS at the height of its cash crisis caused by unfair pre-funding legislation. Like any CEO, he’s coming in and shaking up the executive leadership to fix problems he sees. However, when one looks at the facts, the new Postmaster General seems to be doing everything in his power to ensure the 2020 election is a fair one, and that every American has a chance to cast a vote via the mail.
Registered to vote, but need to request an absentee ballot for this year’s election? Visit the Absentee and Early Voting website to get started.