Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promised on Friday that the Postal Service would fulfill its "sacred duty" to deliver election mail this fall and said he was "extremely highly confident" that even mail-in ballots sent close to Election Day would be delivered on time.
In the first of his two appearances before Congress this month, the embattled postmaster sought to tamp down public outcry over cutbacks and to rebut allegations by Democrats and voting rights groups that he's collaborating with President Trump in an extraordinary effort to undermine the integrity of the election.
DeJoy, a major Trump donor who became the nation's top postal official 10 weeks ago, testified to a Republican-majority Senate committee that he is not working on behalf of the White House. And "the insinuation is quite frankly outrageous," he declared, that he is out to ruin the central exercise of American democracy with policy changes rendering impossible the timely delivery and return of an unprecedented tens of millions of absentee ballots sure to be cast because of the pandemic.
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Absentee voting refers to when a voter requests a ballot for an election and is then sent one in the mail. Vote-by-mail, which is what Sen. Tom Cotton is most likely referring to as "mass mail-in voting," is a system of sending every registered voter (an important distinction from "everyone") a ballot without a request. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Washington and Oregon were already vote-by-mail states. But now California, Nevada and Vermont will also automatically send ballots to registered voters, while still having in-person options.
Vote-by-mail states send the ballot to the address on file in the voter registration database; the address was verified during the registration process. For example, in Colorado the ballot will be "sent to the mailing address you provided for your voter registration file." It's the voters' responsibility to update their address if they move.
These vote-by-mail states usually have the cleanest voter files because they interact with voters so regularly, according to Audrey Kline, the national policy director at the National Vote at Home Institute. Even if a ballot gets sent to the wrong address, it's most likely due to voter inaction rather than fraud.
"It's not like my ballot is going to end up in another city randomly," she wrote in an email. "Errors usually center around people not updating their voter registration before a ballot is mailed. So if you move and don't tell your clerk, you ballot could arrive at your old address. This in and of itself isn't usually a huge issue — they are non-forwardable and get sent back to the clerk." If someone does gets the wrong ballot mailed to them and then tries to impersonate that voter, that fraud is detectable by signature matching and other security policies.
"The fact is that mail ballot fraud on the scale that people are warning of is just not practical or economical," Kline said. "People say 'ripe for fraud' because nobody has figured out how to do it on a large scale, but they think it's still possible and are trying to keep the argument alive."
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.@USPS says you should give mail in ballots at least 14 days round trip. No guarantees. So if you plan to vote by… https://t.co/EVFmT1DdzF— Tony Dokoupil (@Tony Dokoupil)1595626031.0
Tony Dokoupil, co-host of "CBS This Morning," tweeted this claim last week, and it has been picked up by many other Twitter and Instagram accounts. There have been multiple reports of an impending crisis regarding the ability of the United States Postal Service to process election mail this fall, as thousands of voters switch to absentee ballots amid the Covid-19 pandemic. An internal memo obtained by The Washington Post even warns of slowed-down mail delivery at the direction of the newly appointed postmaster general. This all comes amid President Trump's criticisms of the Postal Service, calling it a "joke" during a bill signing in April and demanding the agency increase package rates to stay competitive.
Martha Johnson, a USPS spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the "Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner."
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