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Saturday, August 15, 2020

BACK OF THE ENVELOPE CALCULATION

The U.S. Postal Service handles 472 million pieces of mail each day. If 100 million people decide to vote by mail then, taking account of the initial request for an absentee ballot and the return of the absentee ballot to the voter and the return of the completed ballot to the state registrar, absentee voting will add 300 million pieces of mail over roughly 6 weeks. In other words, this will add a burden of additional mail equal to roughly 1 1/2% during that time.

The Postal Workers Union has just endorsed the Biden ticket.

All the fuss about postal delays is likely to frontload the mail-in ballot burden, so that any additional time in delivering the final ballots will probably not make too much difference.

I suspect we are going to be okay.

12 comments:

aall said...

This sort of looks like a coup is in process.

David Palmeter said...

Most of what they handle is junk mail. For every piece of first class mail my wife and I receive, we must get a couple of dozen bulk mail pleas for money from Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Barack Obama, as well as assorted charities, alma maters; also catalogs from every company from which we've bought anything online and some we've never heard of who must have gotten our names and address from a purchased mailing list. The junk mail we receive in the course of a week takes up no small amount of the space in our recycle bin. Most of that kind of mail comes to the Post Office pre-sorted.

I hope the blue states, at least, offer an alternative to the Post Office--places where people could drop off their ballots with the election officials.

David Palmeter said...

Wait! I overlooked something: while absentee ballots won't be pre-sorted like bulk mail, it doesn't have to be pre-sorted since all of it is going to the same place. That shouldn't be a major burden to the Post Office. All they have to do is throw all of the ballots into a big bin and and haul it them the proper address.

On the downside, though, all of these ballots have to manually counted and election volunteers are going to be scarce this year. Mask or not, I certainly wouldn't want to do it.

aall said...

If only the blue states can do drop boxes we are likely to become a banana republic by January.

The post office is important in rural areas, both for delivery and a source of good jobs.

Kneecapping the Post Office before an election is akin to seizing the means of communication.

Eric C said...

"It’s official: 1,913,369 ballots were cast but never counted in the 2016 presidential race....
And not just anyone’s ballot gets tossed into the electoral dumpster. The US Civil Rights Commission took a look at Florida’s throw-away pile and calculated that your chance of having your vote simply go uncounted, 'spoiled,' is 900% higher if you're Black than if you're white."
--Greg Palast, https://www.gregpalast.com/1913369-ballots-thrown-away/

"[In 2018] 68,000 eligible voters nationwide had their mail ballots discarded because an election official, likely with no training, concluded that the voter’s signature on the ballot return envelope did not match the voter signature on file. Another 56,000 voters had their votes discarded because they simply forgot to sign the ballot return envelope. Many of these voters were never told that their vote did not count or given an opportunity to dispute the rejection or cure it."
--Marc Elias, DNC lawyer
https://medium.com/@marceelias/we-are-not-counting-every-vote-e3b91b4a96f1

Or maybe you mail in your ballot but it doesn't arrive until after the deadline.
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2017/1221/Voting-by-mail-grows-in-popularity-but-is-it-reliable

All of the above involved situations in which the prospective voter got a chance to at least mark a ballot. There's a whole other group who request mail ballots but never receive them (or don't receive them in time). I was in that group one year but was able to go in and vote in person instead.
https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-broward-absentee-ballots-unreceived-20161112-story.html

A study that looked at the 2008 election estimated that about 22% of mail-in ballots never get counted. (That's based on the number of mailed ballots that were ultimately accepted and counted as a percentage of mail ballots that had been requested. Some of those voters probably decided to vote in person, so the percentage of those whose vote didn't count as a result of a problem with the mail-in ballots should be a bit lower.)
https://www.eac.gov/documents/2017/02/23/losing-votes-by-mail


With control of the Senate up for grabs, Democrat Doug Jones' likely doomed battle to stay in office was made even harder by the Supreme Court's 5-4 vote last month upholding Alabama's requirement that anyone who votes by mail submit a photocopy of an ID along with a notarized affidavit or an affidavit signed by two witnesses. Guess which party's voters are probably going to have a harder time meeting that requirement.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/us/supreme-court-alabama-voting-restrictions.html

Democrats almost always lose out when it comes down to these ballot issues. And Trump's support in the polls actually looks better today than it did at this point in the summer of 2016 (favorable-unfavorable 41-57% now vs 26-61% then). So if you are worried about 4 more years of Trump, we may not be ok.

Anonymous said...

"The U.S. Postal Service processed more than 158 billion mailpieces in fiscal year (FY) 2013. Of those, it identified almost 6.8 billion pieces (4.3 percent) as undeliverable as addressed (UAA) — mail that could not be delivered to the address on the mailpiece."

And this is just the percentage of known undeliverable pieces of mail. How much is simply lost?

Eric C said...

@Anon 8:54pm
Well, we know where some of that "lost" mail is going.

"A mail carrier in Brooklyn stashed about 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail for more than a decade because he was 'overwhelmed' by the amount he had to deliver, the authorities said.
...
In 2014, a Brooklyn mail carrier was discovered to have hidden 40,000 pieces of undelivered mail — a total of 2,500 pounds — over nine years. The carrier, Joseph Brucato, blamed excessive consumption of alcohol and depression."
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/nyregion/undelivered-mail-hoarded.html

I know. I know. These are the flukes, and not enough in a single year to sway a national election (unless in Florida lol). (Couldn't resist.)

TheDudeDiogenes said...

How bad is Trump's voter suppression compared to other efforts? I find a historical lense is often helpful in assessing a situation, but I have little knowledge of this matter.

Jon Rosenthal said...

Trump intends to define the election landscape. Since he is apt to be on the losing end of either the popular vote (as in 2016) or the electoral college vote, he seeks to delegitimize the election by whatever means necessary. Sabotage of the US Postal Service is just one line of attack. There will be claims of fraud. There will be voter suppression in all possible ways. A close election will be challenged and the victor will be said not to have been legitimately elected. Of course, if Trump should squeak out another win, his legitimacy would be in doubt. A Democratic landslide is the only way to save the republic. The answer is overwhelming turnout.

Anonymous said...

USPS data shows at least 671 USPS mail sorting machines have been removed across the country since June. Represents a reduction in national mail sorting capacity of 21.4 million pieces of mail per hour.
A map that overlays the places where mail sorting machines are being removed with places where Clinton had a lead in the 2016 election.

https://twitter.com/XydexxUnicorn/status/1294409854854078465

Anonymous said...

Four Ways to Safely Cast Your Ballot Without USPS

https://www.democracydocket.com/2020/08/usps-delays/

« 1. Vote early in person. Early voting allows voters to vote in person without waiting in crowded or long lines....

2. Use a ballot drop box. Many states and counties provide ballot drop boxes as a secure and convenient option for voters to return their sealed and signed mail ballot....

3. Drop off your ballot at an election office or polling location. Almost all states permit voters to return a delivered ballot in person at their local election office ...

4. Organize community ballot collection. Many states allow designated organizations, election officials or family members to collect a voter’s signed and sealed ballot and submit the ballot on behalf of the voter.... »

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