Don’t discourage mail-in ballots!

Posted on August 26, 2020

Donald Trump is doing everything he can to lower turnout in the November election. He figures that if fewer people vote, he has a better chance. One of his tactics is to threaten that the U.S. Postal Service will not deliver ballots in time.

Do not help Trump discourage Americans from voting by mail.

Yes, progressive leaders should use legislation and litigation to fight back against corrupt and incompetent Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. But as you discuss this issue, do not give voters the impression that their mail-in ballots won’t be counted. Do not directly or indirectly encourage them to vote on Election Day instead, which would lead to far more problems than mailed-in ballots.

Here are the facts:

About 139 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, and of those, about 33 million (one-fourth) voted by mail.

2020 will probably see a record turnout of about 156 million voters, and of those, about 100 million (64 percent) want to vote by mail.

While it may seem like 100 million ballots is a lot for the Post Office, they can manage it easily.

The Postal Service handles 472 million pieces of mail every single day, processing about 20 million pieces per hour.

Ballots will be mailed to election boards over a period of three to six weeks, depending on the state, so the Post Office will have to handle only a few million on any given day.

In fact, the Post Office can do far more than that – they deliver 1.3 billion Christmas cards each year and USPS handles 48 percent of all the world’s mail.

And there is no practical way for DeJoy to stop the mail.

The Postal Service has over 633,000 employees, and neither letter carriers nor anyone else is going to interfere with a ballot envelope where you can’t tell whether it’s a vote for Republicans or Democrats – and it’s a federal crime for anyone who “obstructs or retards the passage of mail…”

The employees who will make sure that the mail is delivered are members of the American Postal Workers Union, which endorsed Joe Biden for President.

Of course, we should urge voters to mail in their ballots as early as possible – that’s a good practice in any campaign. (Or voters can use early voting or board of elections drop boxes.)

But most important, we progressives must not drive voters from early voting to Election Day voting because polling places will never be ready for COVID-19. There will be delays because of not enough poll workers or inexperienced poll worker replacements. There will be misunderstandings because of never-before-tried COVID-19 masking, distancing and sanitizing rules. And the lines to vote will seem unbelievably long because of 6-foot social distancing. The point is, if Americans mostly vote on Election Day, far more votes will be lost by citizens becoming discouraged and walking away than will be lost because of mail-in vote shenanigans. If 80-100 million people vote by mail in 2020, the number who vote in-person on Election Day will be cut in half compared to 2016 – and we need that to happen so polling places can do their jobs despite the pandemic.

As you may know, one other concern has been in the news lately: that mail-in ballots might be disqualified. It’s a legitimate issue, but the solution is voter education, not panic. First, understand the overwhelming reasons why mail-in ballots are disqualified:

  1. A voter failed to sign the envelope.
  2. A ballot is challenged because the signature on the envelope is different from the one on file.
  3. The ballot arrives too late.

Generally, news stories have not made clear that the battleground states in the presidential election inform voters when their mail-in ballots are disqualified and allow the voters to send a new ballot or come vote on Election Day. These include the critical states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Michigan. The only key presidential battleground state that does not currently notify voters when their mail-in ballot is disqualified is Pennsylvania, where Trump has sued to block mail-in voting and a separate federal lawsuit seeks to correct the problem of disqualified mail-in ballots.

The solution to ballot disqualification is to educate voters to follow the rules that accompany absentee and other mail-in ballots. Most importantly, they need to sign the envelope where directed and, to be safe, mail it at least a week before Election Day.

Let’s be clear. The purpose of this column is not to say everything is all right. This is 2020: nothing is right and we have to fight like hell on every front.

But do not scare Americans away from voting by mail.  Don’t let them feel that their votes won’t be received or counted. Trump’s strategy is to suppress the vote. Don’t help him.