Common Issues & Solutions Experienced in Election 2020

Election 2020 proved to be challenging on many levels. Beyond all the limitations for ballot producers and mailers with COVID precautions in place at the time, it was a heated Presidential election which created a lot of extra angst for Vote By Mail producers, including Boards of Election with in house production and mailing facilities.

From Data to Distribution of Mail Ballots, BOE’s Face Challenges

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By Michelle Toivonen
Director Strategic Marketing
Midwest Direct

Election 2020 proved to be challenging on many levels. Beyond all the limitations for ballot producers and mailers with COVID precautions in place at the time, it was a heated Presidential election which created a lot of extra angst for Vote By Mail producers, including Boards of Election with in house production and mailing facilities. It’s fair to say it was a challenging situation for almost everyone.

With expectations for Vote By Mail ballot requests to continue to grow over the next few years, we thought it would be a good idea to share some of what we saw and how we are ramping up our business for continued growth in producing and mailing Vote By Mail ballots. Midwest Direct has over 38 years of experience in creating, producing and mailing Vote By Mail ballots.

Problem: Boards Surprised by the Volume of Vote By Mail Requests

While some Boards of Election (BOE’s) submitted RFPs in a timely manner, we noticed many purchasers of Vote By Mail ballots asking for help late. Surprisingly late. After many ballot producer/mailers were scheduled to capacity, BOE’s were experiencing much larger than expected requests to vote by mail and pleading with producers for help when realizing they were over-capacity.

Solution: We’re aware of the over-capacity issues faced by many BOE’s in 2020 and have adjusted our own internal capacity to accommodate more production and mail. We’re also prepared to help BOE’s who ask for our professional advice to create their own internal timelines — well in advance for smoother operations on their side. We’re letting VBM ballot purchasers know that they can turn to us for help with realistic timelines and preparations during planning stages to achieve safe and effective elections.

Problem: Late Requests for Ballots Created Data Management Issues

The data management was an issue for some Boards of Election. This problem appeared to be created by old standards of ballot request deadlines still on the books. We saw counties with deadlines to request a Vote By Mail ballot as late as the day before the election.

Solution: Election board members need to carefully review vote by mail ballot request deadlines. Of course, everyone wants voters to have every chance to receive the ballot type of their choice. Realistic timelines for requests and ballot delivery, with the return mail timeline also in consideration, is critical to delivering a safe and effective election. We encourage Board of Election members to work closely with VBM ballot providers and mailers in reviewing their request dates.

Problem: The Volume of Mail Created Delays at the USPS

The USPS also experienced the glut of mail and, while they managed to keep election mail moving in a timely manner in most cases, many areas experienced long recovery periods for marketing mail — even some first-class mail — for weeks. This issue was compounded by holiday mail and backed up some USPS facilities for months.

Solution: We are communicating with all of our clients and BOE’s about the changing USPS delivery times and additionally anytime there may be local or regional issues with mail delivery. We encourage BOE’s to consider the effect the changing USPS schedules may have on future elections and to discuss their timelines with a mail professional before setting schedules.


Everyone may need more of everything. We realize that’s a very general statement, but we’re confident that Vote by Mail voter requests will continue to grow. Many states are considering the “California model” and may mail ballots to every registered voter. This will generate more demand than experienced in Election 2020!

Producers and Mailers may need more staff allocation, more professional data managers and more equipment on the floor to handle the demand. The USPS may need more staff/hours and drop off points to accommodate voters. Local and state governments need to more accurately predict their demand and be more diligent with research, preplanning, internal timelines and RFPs. We recommend reaching out to professional mail service providers like Midwest Direct during your discovery phase, to build more planning time into RFPs, and to communicate more realistic timelines with voters.

How Midwest Direct Works

Midwest Direct is a full-service supplier for Absentee or Vote By Mail ballots, envelopes, and instructions. Using your voter mailing file, the data team processes your file for the corresponding, pre-approved ballot styles and to comply with USPS regulation.

Midwest Direct produces proofs of your ballot, insert, and envelopes; once approved, the entire Vote By Mail pack is printed in their secure facility using high-quality production equipment to ensure every voter receives the ballot you intended them to receive.

Midwest Direct can provide all materials needed for the Absentee Vote by Mail process including: Ballot Request Cards; Vote By Mail Ballots; Mailing Envelopes; Voter ID Envelopes; Return Envelopes; and Instructions/Inserts.

During production, envelopes are variably printed to include any data specific to your county. During production, you will receive proofs of your ballot styles and layouts of all the information printed on the identification envelopes.

Your Absentee Vote by Mail packets are delivered directly to the USPS and accepted into the mail stream, then tracked to the individual home to prove timely and accurate delivery. Upon completion, your file is securely transferred to you as a record of what we received, produced, and mailed from that file.

For more information about Vote By Mail ballots, email or call 1-800-686-6677.


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