[Screenshot via eac.gov]
There have been lots of stories in the news – and on this blog – recently about election officials’ concerns about how the U.S. Postal Service handles and delivers voting materials and ballots. With 2016 just around the corner, the Election Assistance Commission and the Federal Voting Assistance Program have decided to be proactive and see if there’s any way to get the USPS and election offices on the same page in this crucial election year. Here’s the text of a letter they sent earlier this week:
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) are writing to offer our assistance to the United States Postal Service (USPS) to better engage State and local election officials regarding the challenges surrounding postal voting. Voting by mail has become an essential element of voting in America, especially for those voters away from home like our military and overseas voters. In the last presidential election, almost six and a half million voters used the mail to cast their ballots.
As the reliance on mail ballots increases, election officials’ need for reliable distribution and processing of those ballots increases. In their most recent election, Summit County, Ohio could not count approximately 900 absentee ballots due to a lack of a post mark/cancellation. More and more election jurisdictions are reporting these kinds of challenges with postal ballots. Specifically, election officials cite four main issues with vote-by-mail ballots:
l . Ballot Delivery – Challenges with the class of service required for the ballots; associated limitations on the use of intelligent mail barcode that impede ballot tracking for many voters; and consistent timing of delivery.
2. Ballot Return – Inconsistencies in local information provided to election officials depending upon which post office they visit and the timeliness of delivery; changes in the postal service’s delivery methods causing late ballot deliveries; and the use of Business Reply Mail resulting in additional delays for ballot return.
3. Postmarking – Inconsistency with the application of a postmark/cancellation on election mail which may result in the rejection of ballots under State law.
4. Changing Infrastructure – The consolidation of post offices and new load leveling requirements contributing to delays in ballot delivery and increased transit times for ballots.
For voters across the country, no piece of mail is more important than their ballot. Many Service members and their families stationed across the world rely on the postal service to ensure their ballot is delivered in time to have their vote counted. We think you will agree that we can – and must – do better.
The EAC and FVAP remain ready to work with USPS to share these reports and inform any decisions by USPS necessary to protect the integrity of our election system as we approach the 2016 election season. We would like to request a meeting between our three agencies to discuss preparedness for 2016. Please send along your designated point-of-contact to EAC Executive Director Brian Newby (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We appreciate your already stated commitment to improving these services. Thank you in advance for your time and willingness to work with us on these important issues to better serve the voters of America.
Christy A. McCormick Chair, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Thomas Hicks Vice Chair, U. S. Election Assistance Commission
Matthew V. Masterson Commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Matthew Boehmer Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program
One letter – and the meeting it generates – won’t address all the issues or solve all the problems, but at least there will (hopefully) be a dialogue on how to improve handling and delivery of ballots and election materials in 2016 and beyond. Thanks to the EAC and FVAP for writing and sharing this letter – and here’s hoping the USPS responds in kind.
Stay tuned …
[PROGRAMMING NOTE: The blog will not post at all tomorrow or Friday and will be on a reduced scheduled next week. Full coverage returns Monday, January 4.]