Friday, 6 November 2020

We Need to Break Down What’s Going on With the USPS and ‘Missing’ Mail-In Ballots


Illustration for article titled We Need to Break Down What’s Going on With the USPS and ‘Missing’ Mail-In Ballots
Photo: The Toidi (Shutterstock)

I was really hoping that I would be done writing about election mail on Election Day, but as you can see, I don’t always get what I want. The United States Postal Service keeps on generating controversy, mainly due to early data that shows the USPS may have not delivered up to 300,000 mail-in ballots.

Now, we really need to emphasize the may of it all.

According to the Raw Story, the early data may not tell the entire story. In South Florida, the data shows that 27 percent of mail-in ballots were not delivered. According to Vice, that’s because the United States Postal Service had not been scanning the ballots for delivery to speed up the process.

From Vice:

What this means is the stats might look worse than they actually are, because in some cases postal workers have, for example, been manually postmarking the ballots and then passing them off for local same-or-next-day delivery, resulting in the ballots never being scanned into the system in the first place.

The suggestion that there are thousands of ballots sitting in sorting facilities around the country doesn’t pass the smell test. For example, a postal worker in Florida raised alarm when they found 62 ballots in a sorting facility (the ballots have since been delivered). The idea that 22,166 ballots have gone unnoticed in Arizona sorting facilities or 30,146 in Salt Lake City area facilities, as the daily filings say, is hard to believe.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, summed it up quite succinctly, telling Vox, “Just because something didn’t have [a delivery scan] does not translate at all into ‘it was not delivered.’” He corroborated the account that the ballots were being manually postmarked so they could be delivered in an expedited manner ahead of Election Day.

“We weren’t worried about the scan,” Dimondstein added. “We were worried about getting to the Board of Elections on time. Our whole goal is to make it as quick and efficient as possible.”

The Washington Post notes that in many of the battleground states that will determine the course of the election, even if the missing ballot count is accurate, it isn’t enough to significantly sway the election one way or another.

From the Washington Post:

Misplaced ballots account for just a fraction of the total uncertainty around the presidential vote tally in Georgia. As of midafternoon Wednesday, there are roughly 20 times as many estimated uncounted votes in Georgia as there are misplaced ballots.

Other currently contested states show similar dynamics. There are, however, two additional factors to consider. The first is that as outstanding votes are counted, the two-party vote margins may shrink in some states. In North Carolina, for instance, Trump was leading Biden by roughly 77,000 votes as of midafternoon Wednesday. That figure is about eight times larger than the 9,155 ballots reported as misplaced in North Carolina postal districts.

However, it is estimated that there are still tens of thousands of ballots still to be counted in North Carolina, according to Washington Post projections. Depending on how they break, those ballots could shrink the two-party margin, bringing it closer to the 9,155 missing ballot tally.

So, to sum it all up:

The number of missing ballots is likely to be much, much lower than the 300,000 shown by the early data. While this is mainly due to the USPS utilizing a process meant to expedite the delivery of the ballots, there really should’ve been some kind of tracking process for the sake of voter confidence.

This is a highly contentious election, and while I understand prioritizing speed, I can’t help but feel this is all still a bit sus.

As you probably know, the USPS has been in the news more than usual this election cycle and most of that has been due to Trump and his appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy doing all he can to fuck up the postal service.

From restructuring the entire organization, removing high-speed mail sorting machines from multiple post offices, to blowing off a court order on Election Day to sweep facilities for ballots, Dejoy hasn’t necessarily made an effort to ensure mail-in voting is more secure or transparent by any means.

When I look at all that information in totality, the missing ballots situation feels less like a data error from a system instituted in good faith and more like another way to undermine people’s faith in both their vote and the outcome of the election.

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