With millions of voters expected to cast their vote by mail in this election, the US Postal Service is coming under increasing scrutiny. It is a government agency whose board is appointed by the Republican-controlled Senate. The USPS stalled on plans to cut services until after the election citing lack of funds, but the US Congress passed a bill to provide $25bn to the USPS, which Senate leader Mitch McConnell said would not pass.
There are reports from US media that 600 mail sorting machines are being decommissioned, which equates to around 10% of the service’s machines.
With an estimated 80 million ballots expected to be cast by mail in the lead up to this year’s election, there are concerns regarding the USPS’s ability to cope with this increased demand, and also whether these moves are politically motivated.
In normal elections not held during a global pandemic, thousands of postal votes are rejected for formalities. In the 2016 election, there were over 300,000 rejected postal ballots - if 50% of Americans vote by mail it is projected that this could result in over 1 million postal vote rejections.
With so many voters voting by mail for the first time in this election, the rejection rate is likely to increase as mistakes are more likely to be made.
Even if the USPS can cope with the greatly increased stress on its services as a result of the significant rise in postal voting, there remain questions around whether every vote will count. If rejection rates rise by 2%, over 2 million votes would be rejected - this is roughly the population of New Mexico.
The risk of having so many votes not included in the final count could have a significant impact on state and national results - it is crucial to a democracy that every vote is counted.