While retrieving a couple of days’ worth of mail over the weekend, I discovered a curious delivery in my box. It was a Christmas card I had long been expecting but never received.
Actually, it was a mangled envelope that had once presumably contained a Christmas card, stamped with a haphazard “DELIVER TO ADDRESSEE WITHOUT CONTENTS” message, and stuffed into a taped-shut United States Postal Service baggie adorned with a pre-printed apology message.
“WE CARE,” the government courier assured me despite damning evidence to the contrary, before writing:
Dear Postal Customer,
We sincerely regret the damage to your mail during handling by the Postal Service. We hope this incident did not inconvenience you. We realize that your mail is important to you and that you have every right to expect it to be delivered in good condition.
Although every effort is made to prevent damage to the mail, occasionally this will occur because of the great volume handled and the rapid processing methods which must be employed to assure the most expeditous distribution possible.
We hope you understand…
It’s a bit frustrating that my dear, faraway friend spent some 60-odd cents to send me an empty, torn-open envelope that was dropped off in a sandwich bag a month after Christmas (and, the way people time their seasonal greetings, probably two months after it was supposed to arrive). But, of course, I do “understand,” Mr. Postmaster, that life isn’t perfect. We live in a crazy, fallen world marred by both human and mechanical error. The USPS isn’t exempt, and neither am I.
But I also understand that my incoming Christmas cards are about the lowest-risk piece of mail the Postal Service is tasked with handling. Ranking above them are sympathy cards and cash-carrying birthday notes, followed by wedding invitations and paychecks, tax documents, passports and immigration papers, and — crucially — election ballots.
Unlike my fashionably late, empty Christmas envelope, the delayed arrival of mail-in ballots causes potentially election-tipping quantities of them to miss deadlines. In Pennsylvania’s June 2020 primary, for instance, the pace of voting by mail kept tens of thousands of people from successfully casting a ballot. More than 100,000 mail-in ballots were rejected during California’s presidential primary the same year, mostly for missing arrival or postmark deadlines. And though sometimes the ballot rejections are the fault of a voter’s procrastination, as NPR reported in a 2020 article titled “Signed, Sealed, Undelivered,” vote-by-mail failures are “often through no fault of the voter.”
New York City’s disastrous 2020 Democratic primary offers another cautionary tale about voting-by-Post Office. As my colleague John Daniel Davidson reported at the time:
[T]he Board of Elections threw out more than 84,000 mail-in ballots for the June 23 Democratic primary. That was out of a total of nearly 319,000 mail-in ballots, which means about 21 percent of all mail-in ballots were invalidated. … What’s more, it took six weeks to declare a winner in two closely watched Democratic congressional primary races, largely because of delays associated with a surge of mail-in votes.
Of the approximately 30 million ballots cast by mail in the 2018 midterms, almost 628,000 votes weren’t counted. Then in the 2020 presidential election, a whopping 70 million-plus people cast their ballots by mail — more than triple the population of Florida — with a handful of states automatically mailing ballots out to voters. More than half a million of those ballots were also rejected for various reasons, and many more blew up the courts over state election law battles.
But thanks to government- and media-induced Covid panic, that fateful election set the precedent for voting via nontraditional — and often less secure — channels. A large majority, nearly 70 percent, of 2020 voters cast their ballots early and/or by mail.
The list goes on and on. As a result of Democrats’ long push for no-excuse absentee voting and universal vote-by-mail schemes, a serendipitous pandemic excuse to really get the ball rolling, and systemic USPS failures and incompetence, our crumbling election apparatus isn’t instilling any faith among Americans that our elections are free, fair, or secure.
My content-free holiday envelope has the same effect. If the USPS can’t be trusted to deliver my Christmas mail intact and on time, why should it be trusted to touch my ballot?