USPS delivered mail-in ballots for midterm elections more quickly than in 2020 surge

The Postal Service, geared up to handle a higher volume of election mail since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivered mail-in ballots last year more quickly than it did in 2020.

USPS, in its 2022 post-election analysis report released Monday, found it delivered at least 105.4 million ballots in 2022.

The agency delivered 51 million of those ballots during the primaries and 54.5 billion ballots as part of the 2022 general election and a...

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The Postal Service, geared up to handle a higher volume of election mail since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivered mail-in ballots last year more quickly than it did in 2020.

USPS, in its 2022 post-election analysis report released Monday, found it delivered at least 105.4 million ballots in 2022.

The agency delivered 51 million of those ballots during the primaries and 54.5 billion ballots as part of the 2022 general election and a Dec. 6 runoff election for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.

USPS said it delivered 98.96% of general election ballots within three days, and that on average, it delivered ballots in less than two days.

That’s an improvement from its performance in 2020, when USPS delivered 135 million mail-in ballots, an unprecedented surge in volume. During that election mail season, USPS delivered 97.9% of ballots within three days.

“These results don’t happen by accident. Months of unseen and unheralded preparation, tireless execution and nonstop attention to detail are required to process, transport and deliver tens of millions of ballots on time,” USPS wrote in its report.

USPS, however, didn’t quite match its performance in 2021, when it delivered 99.31% of ballots within three days. However, the agency delivered a much smaller volume of ballots during the 2021 elections — about 28.2 million total.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement that the data shows that “once again, our entire Postal Service team has successfully delivered the nation’s ballots securely and on time.”

“We take great pride in the role our organization plays in the vote-by-mail process. The American people can continue to feel confident in using the U.S. mail to fulfill their democratic duty,” DeJoy said.

Amber McReynolds, chairwoman of the USPS Board of Governors Election Mail Committee, said USPS will “continue to look for opportunities to improve operational effectiveness of this critical service in future elections.”

“These results speak for themselves. The Postal Service has performed at a very high level as it has done since the late 1800s. The entire team — from the postmaster general, to the senior leadership team, to the 655,000 men and women of the Postal Service — is dedicated to ensuring excellence when it comes to delivering our nations’ election mail for the American people,” McReynolds said.

USPS said the total number of mail-in ballots it actually delivered in 2022 “may greatly exceed” its official count. That’s because the agency’s final tally doesn’t include ballots that bypassed standard mail processing procedures as part of “extraordinary measures” to expedite delivery to election boards.

The Postal Service’s performance in the 2022 midterm elections lines up with expectations.

The USPS inspector general last fall determined the agency was well equipped to handle another round of mail-in ballots in November.

The USPS IG’s office, in a Sept. 26 report, found that USPS delivered election mail more quickly in 2022 than it did for the same period in 2020, “even with the significant increase” in volume.

The USPS, according to the watchdog office, processed nearly 10 million more pieces of election mail during the 2022 primary season than it did for the same period in 2020.

USPS, according to the IG report, delivered 97.6% of 2022 primary election mail on time, a 1% increase compared to levels seen in 2020.

USPS also stood up a permanent Election and Government Mail Services team this summer, focused on reaching out to state and local election officials ahead of the general election.

“After the upsurge of mail-in ballots in 2020 caused by the COVID pandemic, and projections that voting by mail would increase in the future, it was clear that our organization would benefit from a permanent group to lead the development and execution of election mail policies,” USPS wrote in its report.

USPS said the election mail team led thousands of meetings with election officials to ensure voters received ballots in time for last year’s primary and general elections.

USPS also kept in place “extraordinary measures” to deliver mail-in ballots to voters and election boards on time, as required in a December 2021 lawsuit settlement with Public Citizen and the NAACP.

USPS authorized “extraordinary measures” between Oct. 24 and Nov. 29. Those included extra collections and deliveries, as well as expanded hours at processing facilities.

The agency also issued a memo to its workforce in September outlining key practices for proper handling of election mail, including daily “all clear” sweeps of facilities and extraordinary measures.

USPS also distributed its election mail program kit to more than 12,000 election officials in March. The kit outlines USPS mail classes, its mailpiece design services and ways to enable election mail tracking through barcodes.

USPS also stood up a Joint Election Mail Task Force with postal unions and associations, and named ballots monitors and ambassadors to ensure proper handling of election mail at facilities.

Looking ahead to 2023 and 2024, USPS said there’s still “room for improvement” to deliver ballots faster and more efficiently. The agency said it will continue to push for wider adoption of barcodes on mail-in ballots.

According to the USPS IG’s office, 53% of the ballots USPS received in the 2020 election had barcodes, and 83% of ballots mailed in the 2022 primary election had barcodes.

Congress may weigh in on the issue in the coming years. The House Oversight and Reform Committee last November advanced a bill that would require states to include a scannable barcode on all mail-in ballots for federal elections.

The bill didn’t get a House floor vote, but the committee’s new Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) supports the bill, as do a majority of Republicans on the committee.

“I actually like this bill,” Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) said. “That’s been a huge issue in a lot of elections over the past four years — that is, the envelopes carrying such ballots must include a barcode that can be read by Postal Service equipment.”

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