2020 Election: What You Need to Know About Voting By Mail

With the coronavirus pandemic far from over, mail-in voting is seemingly the safest way to vote this November. Absentee, or opting to vote by mail, has always been a trusted way to vote — in fact, it is how our overseas troops vote. But as more states consider switching to this physically distanced form of voting, USPS has sounded alarms that they are experiencing extreme delays and days-long backlogs in their mailing services.

Adding to the confusion, in recent tweets, President Trump has publicly denounced mail-in voting. He has, falsely, claimed that mail-in voting is subject to fraud and foreign interference — even suggesting that the upcoming election be postponed.

So could the election actually be postponed? Taking that step is a right granted to Congress, not the president. US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other prominent Republicans, have even publicly denounced Trump’s suggestion. “Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time,” McConnell said in the interview with WNKY of Bowling Green, Ky.

So, is it safe to vote by mail?

Trump’s suggestions that mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud and foreign interference, have been disproven by fact-checkers at the New York Times and CNN. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, five states, including the deep red state of Utah, conduct elections entirely by mail – and they report very little fraud. Overall, voter fraud in the US is actually very rare. When it comes to foreign interference, CNN reports that “nonpartisan election experts say it would also be very difficult for foreign countries to influence the election using mail-in voting, which would require printing millions of fraudulent mail-in ballots.”

What is the controversy with the USPS?

In May, the USPS Board of Governors named Louis DeJoy to be postmaster general, despite the fact that he has no experience with the Postal Service. DeJoy was a prominent North Carolina businessman and is one of the country’s most generous Republican donors, having donated $2 million to the Trump campaign and other Republican causes since 2016. He was also made the finance chairman of the 2020 Republican convention, and his wife was nominated by Trump to be the ambassador to Canada, according to several reports from the Washington Post.

“The idea that we would appoint and accept the appointment of a partisan political donor with no credentials … is reckless and irresponsible … and a stick in the eye by Trump to a service Americans count on every day,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told NPR.

With a projected $13 billion revenue shortfall due in part to the coronavirus, one of DeJoy’s first moves was to cut USPS operating costs by changing internal procedures. According to DeJoy, these changes were necessary in order to ensure the survival of USPS. The Washington Post obtained internal documents, that were verified by members of the American Postal Workers Union, in which DeJoy told workers “to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes.”

How Do You Vote By Mail?

Register to vote here, and register to vote-by-mail here. Every state has different elections rules — make sure you know the important deadlines and processes (here’s Illinois).

Most importantly: give yourself ample postage time. The USPS recommends at least 15 days to ensure your ballot is counted by November 3.


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Madison Muller is the Assistant Digital Editor at Better. A recent graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she approaches our contemporary media environment with compassion and candor. She is interested in writing about the intersectionality of social justice issues in marginalized communities and environmentalism. Madison proudly supports Action Now, a community organization that empowers and uplifts residents on Chicago’s West Side.

She also encourages reading and supporting The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.