Imageedit 12 8938085030Due to concerns around COVID-19, many voters are opting to stay home rather than cast their ballot at a designated polling place. State laws on mail-in ballots vary. Oregon, which has one of the highest voter participation rates in the country, has used them since 1981. The State of Washington has also followed a similar practice since 1983. Some states, however, are newer to the practice.

President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee are leery of mail-in ballots, citing claims of a potential increase in voter fraud.  As a result, they have taken formal steps to curtail the adoption of mail-in ballots in states like Illinois and Pennsylvania. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Georgia are advocating for special drop-boxes where voters can drop off their ballots at secure receptacles outside of public buildings. The drop-box option is thought of as a more secure option, as they are created specifically for ballots to be collected by election workers and are not at risk of being mixed in with regular mail. They are also not subject to any potential USPS deficiencies. Another alternative to accommodate socially-distant voting is the introduction of athletic stadiums as voting centers. Since many sports seasons have been cancelled due to COVID-19, plenty of facilities have been left unoccupied.

The United States Postal Service has been struggling for several years due to a reduction of secular mail usage. Further, the pandemic has increased budget concerns, as mail revenue has been reduced by 3.2%. As of 2019, Congress put forth a Budget Justification Plan, which aimed to cut delivery network costs as well as increase overall prices of certain mail products. The most controversial suggestion made by Postmaster Louis DeJoy was to cut extra or late deliveries and by extension increase the overall timeliness of delivery shifts.

DeJoy has recently declared suspensions of any USPS policy changes in order to avoid potential accusations of election misconduct. Fears of delays are not unwarranted as there has been a recent slowing of mail deliveries due to budget cuts. These delays are expected to be especially consequential for voters in rural municipalities.

Nzinga Kelliebrew

Nzinga Kelliebrew

Research Analyst, State & Local Government