The complications of having an election during the coronavirus pandemic is set to make what is already likely to be a competitive election even more contentious. An anticipated influx of mail-in ballots is expected to put further stress on the U.S. Postal Service, and mismatches between Postal Service delivery policies and vote-by-mail election laws in key swing states could make it even harder to make sure ballots sent by mail get counted — and less likely we will have a clear outcome on Election Day.
A letter sent by Postal Service General Counsel Thomas Marshall first brought attention to the disconnect between state election laws and what can be expected of mail services. Marshall recommended that voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to the state’s due date because, while “most domestic First-Class Mail is delivered in 2-5 days” and “most domestic Marketing Mail is delivered in 3-10 days,” “the Postal Service cannot guarantee a specific delivery date or alter standards to comport with individual state election laws.”