The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Henry Haney is an Assistant City & State Editor.
As Nov. 3 looms closer, we encounter an increasing barrage of elections news. Some of it, like Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, is standard procedure, but in this era of uncertainty, other news is atypical and concerning — namely, the emerging crisis in the United States Postal Service.
The USPS has long faced financial and organizational issues, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated them. As cries for universal mail-in voting, to ensure a safe election free of long lines and potentially high exposure at the polls, sweep across the country, the gravity of these issues is coming to light. Authorities, voters and activists across the nation find themselves united by one question: Is the USPS equipped to handle an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots?
The USPS itself is concerned with its ability to deliver mail-in ballots by Election Day. Despite the recent, overwhelming popularity of mail-in voting, President Donald Trump has attacked the idea and admitted his opposition to additional funding for the service, citing claims of increased voter fraud. In June, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy, a megadonor to his campaigns, as the postmaster general. Under DeJoy’s leadership, the service has recently seen significant mail delays and mailbox removal (which has been halted in some states until after the election).
The USPS is the only mailing service that delivers to every residential and business address in the U.S. and it does so at affordable rates. It handles 48 percent of the world’s mail, delivers vital medicine to millions of Americans and serves as the bedrock of the U.S. mailing industry, both competing and collaborating with private companies.
In the midst of a pandemic, it is absolutely essential the post office remains afloat, as it is critical for safe, free and fair elections in November. It’s an overwhelming and complicated issue that has been politicized for partisan gain.
One thing you can do to help is request your absentee ballot well ahead of the election.
In March and April, “flatten the curve” became the rallying cry to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across the nation. As the election looms closer, there’s another curve we can strive to flatten — that of the absentee ballot request curve.
Proactivity in requesting and submitting absentee ballots helps prevent overwhelming the postal service in the last days before Nov. 3, giving the USPS ample time to deliver your ballot and ensure your vote counts. In North Carolina, absentee ballot request forms must be received by your county’s Board of Elections by Oct. 27, the Tuesday before Election Day. The state will count your vote even if it arrives after Election Day, so long as it was shipped before or on Nov. 3. You do not need an excuse to request a ballot.