Postal Service: Indiana election rules may leave mail-in ballots uncounted
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The U.S. Postal Service has notified Indiana that the state’s rules for mail-in absentee ballots mean some ballots may not return in time to be counted.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson received the information Aug. 4 in a letter from the Postal Service. It says the state’s deadlines mean some ballots could be sent out and returned, according to state guidelines, but that postal service delivery times mean they might not arrive in time to be counted.
State law requires ballots to arrive in clerk’s office prior to Election Day to be counted, regardless of whether they are postmarked before Election Day but arrive after the state’s deadlines.
The Postal Service recommends Indiana ballots be mailed out 15 days prior to the election and that voters place them in the mail no later than Oct. 27.
The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.
Similar letters have been sent to 45 other states.
The Postal Service’s letter to Indiana has some people concerned about a slowdown in mail delivery. The Postal Service has asked for billions of dollars in additional funding. On Thursday, President Donald Trump said he opposes it because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting this November.
Yolana Wakefield-Wilson, an Indianapolis resident, told News 8 on Friday, “l’m really concerned about those people who need the Postal Service for their regular business.”
Gregory Jones is president of the Indianapolis Area American Postal Workers Union. He told News 8 that a few processing machines were removed from the Postal Service center on South Street in downtown Indianapolis as well as a facility in Muncie. “Not sure why. They claim that the mail volume is down,” Jones said. “We’re really not seeing that. We’ve picked up a lot of mail volume from parcels and priority mail. We do a lot of Amazon.”
Jones said things were also added to some machines so they can process more mail. Jones represents about 1,500 postal employees. He said postal workers usually process about 1 million pieces of mail a day in the Indianapolis area.
“We don’t get tax money to run the post office. We get revenue through the sale of stamps and other products. In this day and time, what we’re up against this just became a big burden on the postal service, survival, to maintain and provide this service that everybody deserves.” Jones said.
What about election mail? Can our system handle it? Is it safe?
“If it’s safe enough for them to send tax returns through the mail, Social Security checks, stimulus checks, draft registrations, prescription drugs, passports, driver’s licenses and actual ID, then it’s safe for them to send ballots through the mail.” Jones said.
Postal service warns it may not deliver ballots in time based on election rules
(CNN) — The US Postal Service is warning states that voters risk not getting their ballots back to election offices in time because of lags in mail delivery, according to letters reviewed by CNN, adding a new level of uncertainty to the coming presidential election and leaving states to ascertain how to adjust.
Multiple states received communications from the USPS general counsel outlining standard mail delivery times and prices leading up to the November election and warning secretaries of state that election laws established by the states would not necessarily guarantee that mail-in ballots will be received in time to be counted.
CNN obtained letters sent to Washington, Pennsylvania, California and North Carolina. The Utah lieutenant governor’s office also confirmed to CNN that it received a letter at the end of July. The Washington Post reported 46 states and Washington, DC, all received similar warnings.
“Certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots, particularly with respect to new residents who register to vote shortly before Election Day, appear to be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall wrote to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “This mismatch creates a significant risk that some ballots will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”
The letters list standard mail delivery times and prices for first-class and marketing mail, the two types of mail USPS sends. Many states use the nonprofit marketing mail rate to send election mail, including absentee and mail-in ballots and ballot applications to voters.
The letters state that election mail must be sent from voters by first-class mail, which is more expensive than the nonprofit marketing rate.
“State or local election officials may generally use either First-Class Mail or Marketing Mail to mail blank ballots to voters,” the letters state.
First-class mail takes between two and five days to be received, while marketing mail takes between three and 10 days to be received, according to USPS. That, according to Pennsylvania’s secretary of commonwealth, is a longer a delivery time than what was factored in for the primaries in June, according to a filing in a related court case.
The slower delivery is, according to the court filing, a likely outcome of recent changes put in place by the post office that have been criticized for putting at risk the ability to conduct vote by mail across the country. As a result, Pennsylvania said it is willing to extend its deadline to receive ballots to up to three days after the election, provided they are mailed by Election Day.
While the letter states USPS is not recommending changing election laws in these states, it says it is simply reminding the states that USPS cannot adjust its delivery standards for state election laws.
“The United States Postal Service is committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system. We provide election officials who are mindful of our operational standards with a secure, efficient and effective means to enable citizens to participate in elections. We offer a powerful, national communications channel which enables candidates and interest groups to directly reach every home and business for the purpose of informing the public about the issues and policies at stake when they vote.
“The Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner. We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail, including ballots. This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local and state levels. As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting and will continue to proactively conduct outreach with state and local election officials and Secretaries of State so that they can make informed decisions and educate the public about what they can expect when using the mail to vote. As part of these outreach efforts, we will discuss our delivery processes and will consult with election officials about how they can design their mailings in a manner that comports with postal regulations, improves mailpiece visibility, and ensures efficient and cost-effective processing and delivery.
“Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements. Voters must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed ballots. 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. The Postal Service recommends that domestic, non-military voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to their state’s due date to allow for timely receipt by election officials. The Postal Service also recommends that voters contact local election officials for information about deadlines.
“Additionally, it’s important to note that as a continuation of our ongoing outreach efforts aimed at educating all interested parties about the Postal Service’s mailing requirements and services in advance of the 2020 elections, we recently distributed a letter to local and state election officials and state party officials around the country that highlights key aspects of Election Mail delivery processes — and ways to help educate the public on what to expect when using the mail to vote (please see this link) : https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2020/0529-usps-provides-recommendations-for-successful-2020-election-mail-season.pdf.
“Also, we would emphasize that (as stated in the press release) the letter to election officials was a follow-up to the more extensive 2020 Official Election Mail Kit (Kit 600), which was distributed to 11,500 election officials in March. In addition, we will be sending a letter in the near term to election officials in states that have deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots that under our reading of their election laws appear to be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.
“Further, the Postal Service’s financial condition is not going to impact our ability to process and deliver election and political mail. The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our network is designed to handle increases in volume and deliver that mail in a timely manner. Additionally, the Postal Service has long-standing processes to align workforce to workload, including contingencies to respond to events like the COVID-19 pandemic. The Postal Service maintains steady communications with mailers during events that require specific responses and advises residential customers and business mailers with regard to postal facility disruptions that may impact delivery in an affected area via its USPS Service Alerts webpage at: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/service-alerts/.
“The Postal Service has continued and will continue to serve its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic through the delivery of not only Election Mail, but also medicine, essential consumer staples, benefit checks, and important information. For information about how the Postal Service is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/covid-19/.”
Indianapolis branch of the U.S. Postal Service