Inspector General Identifies Election Mail Issues


The OIG has issued a report on Processing Readiness of Election and Political Mail During the 2020 General Elections (click to read).

Among the Stakeholder-Related Election Mail Issues:

The Postal Service has frequently communicated to state election officials the importance of ballot mailpiece tracking and design, the required time frames for processing and delivering mail, and the importance of updating voter addresses. They have designated area and district Political and Election Mail coordinators to conduct outreach to state and local election officials and published a toolkit for election officials to facilitate voting by mail.

Further, the Postal Service has altered their normal processes to accommodate for the timely processing of Election and Political Mail, such as requiring postmarks on all ballots, prioritizing the pickup, processing, and delivery of Election and Political Mail, and diverting resources as necessary. However, as mentioned in the Timeliness of Ballot Mail in the Milwaukee P&DC Service Area audit, issues surrounding these items continue to occur.

■ The Postal Service, mailers, and election boards are not able to track ballot envelopes that do not have barcodes. According to Postal Service management, some election boards have chosen to continue using excess stock of ballot envelopes without barcodes and some lack the funding for integrating the use of barcodes in their mailing process. Based on data analyzed from the 2018 general election season, about 31.1 million ballots were cast by mail, but only 4.1 million (13 percent) Election Mail mailpieces used mail tracking technology.

■ Some election boards continue using ballot envelope designs which can cause mail processing machines to return ballots to voters. This can occur when the ballot envelope contains more than two addresses, as well as when addresses are located on both sides of the envelope.

■ Mailers, election boards, and voters are likely to mail Election and Political Mail too close to an election. This could result in insufficient time for the Posta lService to process and deliver the mailpieces within prescribed delivery standards, and still meet state deadlines for receiving ballots from voters. The Postal Service suggests election offices send ballots as First-Class Mail, and while First-Class Mail only takes 2 to 5 days to be delivered, the Postal Service recommends election offices send ballots to voters at least 15days prior to an election. This is to ensure time for the ballot to reach the voter and for the voter to complete and return the ballot. However, 48 states and the District of Columbia have absentee ballot request deadlines less than 15 days in advance of an election. According to Postal Service management, during the primary election season, election boards mailed over 1 million ballots to voters within 7 days of an election. This put these ballots at high risk by not allowing sufficient time for delivery to voters and their subsequent delivery back to the election boards.

■ Postmarking provides an official date stamp for ballots; however, ballot postmarking policies vary by state. Although 29 states do not currently require postmarks on absentee ballots, the states that do require them have different timeframes for when ballots must be postmarked or received to be counted. In anticipation of an increase in voting by mail during the November 2020 general election, some states have recently updated their postmark requirements.

■ States have different requirements and timeframes for updating their voter registries. Some states only update voter address information every two years and run the risk of using outdated addresses for their registered residents who have moved. This can cause absentee ballots intended for voters to be returned to election officials as undeliverable.

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