Postal Service’s Struggles Could Hurt Mail-In Election

By: - May 8, 2020 12:00 am

A U.S. Postal Service worker makes a delivery with gloves and a mask in Warren, Michigan. Because of a financial shortfall at the agency caused by COVID-19, there may be delays in delivering mail-in ballots in November. Paul Sancya/The Associated Press

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An unprecedented shift in American democracy is underway, as more states and counties turn to voting by mail. But as jurisdictions prepare for a pandemic-riddled presidential election, the threat of a financial crisis at the U.S. Postal Service looms over that alternative to in-person voting.

If Congress does not pass a $75 billion bailout, the Postal Service says uninterrupted mail service may not last past September. That’s when local election officials plan to send out mail-in absentee ballots, letters with polling place information, voting booklets, new voter cards and federally mandated voter registration confirmation postcards.

Because so much U.S. election infrastructure relies on mail, some state officials of both parties are sounding the alarm about the prospect of a financial crisis at the Postal Service.

“I can’t understate how disastrous this would be to our democracy and our economy,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat. “Mid-election year is not the time to risk the dependability of the Postal Service.”

State and local officials depend on the agency to run smooth elections, they say.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.