No Reason To Fear Mail-In Ballot Delays Just Yet
TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:
Officials with the U.S. Postal Service say they've already processed a record amount of election mail this year ahead of November 3. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many more voters to send in their ballots by mail. And while there have been some delays in a couple of key states, experts agree that voting by mail has gone relatively smoothly so far. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Postal Service officials say they've made election mail their No. 1 priority this election season and are delivering on that promise.
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KRISTIN SEAVER: The Postal Service will not leave anything on the playing field when it comes to delivering the nation's election.
NAYLOR: That's Kristin Seaver, the Postal Service's retail and delivery chief, speaking at a briefing for reporters yesterday. Postal Service officials say that so far, they've moved more than 500 million pieces of election mail. That includes ballots and fliers from various candidates. That's a 162% increase from the 2016 election. They say 100 million ballots have been sent to or from voters. Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, says postal workers feel like they're in the midst of a storm but that things do seem to be working.
MARK DIMONDSTEIN: All the reports that we're hearing are generally positive that the election mail, both to and from the voter, is given great priority. All the mail is being treated as first-class mail, making sure it gets cleared every day and making sure that ballot gets to its final destination to make sure it's counted. So we are moving heaven and earth.
NAYLOR: The Postal Service, in part due to court orders, has reversed some of the procedures instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that critics said were slowing the mail. It stopped removing sorting machines and the blue sidewalk mailboxes, restricting overtime and leaving behind late-arriving mail from distribution centers, at least until after the election. DeJoy has been a big-dollar donor to Republicans, including President Trump.
Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, however, say that on-time, first-class mail deliveries, including in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Michigan, are still below 80%. Seaver of the Postal Service says her agency is taking extraordinary measures, including making extra trips between post offices and boards of elections to ensure election mail is delivered on time.
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SEAVER: Election mail will not be delayed. The Postal Service is committing all available resources to ensure the timely movement of all election mail, and we have the methods and the mechanisms to do so.
NAYLOR: Early in-person voting and use of drop-off boxes has also been at record levels, taking some of the pressure off the post office. Amber McReynolds, who heads the National Vote at Home Institute, says as far as election mail is concerned, so far, so good.
AMBER MCREYNOLDS: I have not actually heard of any recent issues on that. We've been tracking that quite closely. It seems to me that most people are getting through the backlogs. In some states, you can still request a ballot. You know, so if people are going to do that, they should do that as soon as possible because the - you know, the clock really is ticking.
NAYLOR: And the Postal Service reminds voters in states where their ballots must be postmarked by midnight on Election Day to make sure they drop them off before the last mail pickup.
Brian Naylor, NPR News.
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