Dear League members,
Due to COVID-19, millions of voters have planned to cast their ballots through the mail this election cycle, which requires a fully functioning United States Postal Service.
The Washington Post
reported Friday that U.S. Postal Service General Counsel Thomas Marshall cautioned 46 states and Washington D.C. that mail-in ballot policies conflict with the postal service’s delivery schedules. Florida is among those states.
“This mismatch creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them,” Marshall wrote to Florida’s Secretary of State Laurel Lee.
Up until recently the Postal Service has remained a trusted agency that has processed hundreds of millions of overseas and absentee ballots, and supported five states with completely mail-in elections every cycle. Just as it does for traditionally busy times like the holiday season, the postal service can tailor their work around elections. The funding needed for the additional burdens on the postal service is thus far being withheld.
Make no mistake. It is now evident thatthis war on the USPS, perpetrated by the Trump administration, is providing a convenient way to suppress the vote during the pandemic, forcing voters to have to choose between voting by mail and risk that their vote will not count or risk contracting COVID-19 by voting in person. To quoteCelina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation with the League of Women Voters of the U.S.,“The slowdown is another tool in the toolbox of voter suppression.”
The Florida League agrees.An attack on the postal service is an outright assault on our democracy.The structural changes that the newly appointed postmaster general has implemented are creating chaos that is drastically slowing down efficiency and services of post offices nationwide, including cutting hours of operation at local branches, changing long standing delivery protocols, disbanding executives, cutting hours for postal workers, and eliminating equipment used to process mail.
The letters put the onus on election officials to adjust deadlines or educate voters to act well before then. But we agree with this suggestion from the Editorial Board of the Tampa Bay Times, “Gov. Ron DeSantis has emergency powers because of the pandemic. If questions mount about the speed of postal delivery, he should consider waiving the 7 p.m. Election Day mail ballot deadline. Extending that deadline to 10 days after the election — just as it is for overseas ballots — would be prudent.”
In each of our own communities we must ensure voters understandall of their optionsso that their voices will be heard and their votes counted. We suggest the following:
- Encourage utilization of dropping off vote-by-mail ballots at Supervisors of Elections offices and secure drop box sites
- Encourage voters who are voting-by-mail to mail their ballots two to three weeks prior to election day
- Educate voters how to track their ballots online
- Encourage utilization of early vote centers, which often have little to no wait times and no crowds
- Encourage voters who do want to vote in person at early vote sites or on election day itself to use best safety practices amidst COVID-19, including wearing a mask, frequent hand washing/use of hand sanitizers, taking their own black or blue ink pen to the polling place and socially distancing
We should continue to defend our democracy by rebuking the attempts to manipulate our elections. We cannot stress enough that what we are seeing from the postmaster general and the White House is nothing short of modern-day voter suppression.
The League of Women Voters of Florida remains a nonpartisan organization, but we must not confuse the protection and defense of the United States of America and our cherished democracy with partisanship. It is our duty to speak out against threats to our democracy. We must and we will.
Keep moving forward,