Media Statement – USPS and November Vote-By-Mail
Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor
August 14, 2020
Over the last 48 hours, strong reactions and rumors about the United States Postal Service and Vote-By-Mail have been abundant.
In Washington State, and in Pierce County in particular, our election mail will not be disrupted.
Election Administrators, including the Secretary of State, have been on daily calls with our USPS partners. And we are confident that our vote by mail system is as strong as ever.
President Trump’s remarks about not funding the USPS are not relevant to our November Election here in Washington State. We are not depending upon any new USPS budget authority. Our system of outbound and inbound election mail is well-tested and relies only upon ordinary postal operations.
Recently, USPS stations around the United States have retired some of their high-speed mail sorters. This is true of the “Evergreen” Station on South Pine Street. Were we surprised? No. This has been contemplated for several years as the USPS responds to mail trends. Email is now the king of commerce and there’s been a corresponding drop in this commercial mail.
Pierce County ballots will be mailed as usual to voters, 18days in advance of the election. Neither President Trump’s objection to Congressional funding requests nor the removal of mail sorters will interfere with ballots being delivered to voters. We are mildly concerned, however, that COVID-19 could hit the USPS workforce in the fall and there is a potential for delays in household mail delivery (Stay Home. Stay Safe.)
Changes in USPS operations may potentially delay ballot returns to the Election Center by one day. Voted ballots will now go to Seattle for processing before being delivered back to Tacoma. The impact to Pierce County Elections will occur on the Thursday following the Tuesday, November 3 Election Day. We’ll receive a “bump” in ballots that will need to be processed.
The postmark date will NOT change because the ballot is routed to Seattle. Ballots will still be postmarked based on pickup schedules here in Pierce County. Unlike other states, Washington State bases its acceptance of a ballot on the date of the postmark (on or before Election Day), not the date of arrival.
Pierce County has 47 ballot drop boxes that are postage-free, open 24hours a day during the 18-day voting period. We recommend that voters use these boxes beginning October 20, 2020 to ensure that ballots will be accepted for the November 3, 2020 General Election.
Delivering mail is a human process and depends upon USPS Mail Carriers, as well as voters. Accidents can happen. Using one of our 47 ballot drop boxes will eliminate one point of transfer and potential accident.
And, finally, Pierce County Elections urges voters to be prepared, not delay, and cast their ballot as soon as possible. Remember, November 3 is the deadline, not the day set aside for voting. Voting early or voting even two or three days before November 3 will take tremendous strain off of our election system. During the August 4 Primary Election, which had a record setting turnout, 80% of the ballots at our ballot drop boxes were returned during the final 48hours of the election.
Depositing your ballot a day or two earlier will be a huge help during November, when we expect to process 460,000 ballots.