Mail-In ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Widespread concern about COVID-19 could set the stage for a surge in mail-in ballots this November and the Post Office is key to making sure rural voters have their voice heard at the ballot box.

In 2016, 1 in 5 Americans voted by mail. As people prioritize their health during the pandemic, experts predict that number could more than double for the 2020 Presidential Election.

In Nebraska, the primaries proved mail-in ballots were popular among rural and urban voters.

“We set a new record for the number of ballots cast in our May primary,” Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen said.

Questions surrounding security are being raised, but state and federal leaders say that anti-fraud protections are built into the process.

“People who vote early sign the envelope and those envelope signatures are compared with known exemplars, primarily from their voter registration forms. So, we’re trying to assure that the person who sent the ballot in is the voter,” Secretary Evnen said.

In the 2016 and 2018 general elections, less than one percent of the 14.5 million mail-in ballots were deemed invalid. The reasons for rejecting a ballot vary: a mismatched or missing signature, stray notes on the ballots, or the ballot is late and does not have a postmark.

As voters fill out and send off their votes, the U.S. Post Office maintains its services are reliable and secure.

“All mail is important to us and safeguards are in place to ensure our customers can rely on us to get their mail timely and accurately, and also we ensure collected mail that they want to send out,” USPS’s Mark Inglett said.

For those still uneasy about putting their ballots in the mail, many county offices offer alternative options to get their vote to election officials: secure drop boxes.

Today, five states currently vote entirely by mail, and many others with remote communities, too small for polling, depend on the Post Office to make sure their vote counts.

“We proudly deliver to every address in America and no other carrier can say that,” Inglett said. “We actually will deliver for UPS and Fed Ex to location they can’t get to.”

In July, the USPS adopted cost saving measures after warning it would run out of money by September without financial assistance. Critics say that cost saving measures could slow down mail, during a time Americans will depend on the service during the pandemic and mail-in ballots for the Presidential Election.