Each year more and more Americans count on the Postal Service to cast their votes, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic many are curious of the options. Even amongst the pandemic the Postal Service and mailers across the country are preparing for the November 2020 general election which will include numerous congressional, state and local races in addition to the Presidential election. Mail is an increasingly important part of the elections and as Americans are practicing social distancing the topic of voting by mail is getting even more attention than it has in the past. We thought we’d take a moment to break down some of the basics around Political and Election mail.
The category of Political Mail can include both Political Campaign Mail and Political Message Mail both of which can be mailed as either First Class or Marketing Mail.
According to the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey, a quarter of the 120 million Americans that cast a ballot in that year’s general election voted by mail. Election Mail is any item mailed to or from authorized election officials that enable citizens to vote, such as:
You should be able to notice the Postal Service provided Official Election Mail logo on the outside of these mail pieces:
Absentee Ballots – An absentee ballot is the printed ballot marked by an absent voter, sealed in a special envelope, and returned to election officials either in person or through the mail.
Absentee and Early Voting – Most states offer a method for eligible voters to cast ballots before Election Day, either during the early voting period or by requesting an absentee ballot. In 11 states, early voting is not available and in 17 states a reason is required to request an absentee ballot.
Your state may offer these three ways for voters to cast ballots before Election Day:
As we just explained, a ballot that has been sent to a voters home and allows them to cast their vote outside of a formal polling place has traditionally been referred to as an “absentee ballot” and the person who votes is called an “absentee voter.” The term was used when the assumption was that voters would be “absent” from their neighborhood polling place on Election Day. Over time as more voters ask for these alternative methods and as states began offering voters different solutions, various terms have become popular; “advance ballots,” “mailed ballots,” “by-mail ballots,” “mail ballots” or “vote-by-mail ballots”, and while regulations may differ it’s still the same thing.
How Americans vote has evolved over the past 250 years and with the coronavirus pandemic already impacting primary elections, some election officials are considering increasing vote by mail options for the general election. Tricky thing is the All-Mail states have tested and rolled out this option over an extended period of time, first in only certain circumstances and then adding opportunities as voters and jurisdictions become more familiar with it. This brings us to the pros and cons of the Vote by Mail topic in this election year.
Recently both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin expanded Vote by Mail options ahead of the November elections citing that Americans should feel safe casting their ballots in light of current social distancing practices. And why not? Voting by Mail isn’t a new concept – even Union soldiers were able to cast absentee votes in the 1864 Presidential election and we support voting by mail for thousands of our military even today.
Key Takeaway: Know your state and local jurisdictions’ requirements for submission and pay attention as it gets closer to elections to stay on top of any changes. Voters who plan on using a method other than in person voting on the actual election day should understand your state and local election officials’ deadlines, especially as its related to postmarks. The Postal Service recommends voters mail their ballots at least a week before the due date to account for weather or unforeseen events.
Carolyn, PS’ Director of Resource and Postal Affairs, has been serving with PS since 2016. With over 24 years of experience in our industry, Carolyn has a deep knowledge about sourcing and managing supplier relationship across various operational areas and a signiﬁcant portion of her career has been focused on direct mail, fulﬁllment and postal topics. Carolyn deﬁnes clear expectations and she understands and conveys PS’ mission with authentic communication and care.
Carolyn is from Randolph, New Jersey and she telecommutes full-time from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Carolyn enjoys spending time with her three kids, Crossﬁt, volunteering in her kids’ Cub Scout Pack and swooning over Mid-Century modern architecture and furnishings.