Election officials in many states are warning that it is now too late for voters to cast absentee ballots by mail, and are urging alternatives like voting in person or submitting them at official ballot drop-off boxes.
While some states have relatively flexible vote-by-mail arrangements, some have stringent return deadlines, with a comprehensive list of state laws governing when absentee ballots are due published by vote.org. California, for example, requires ballots to be postmarked by Election Day but allows ballots to be received up to 17 days after, and Illinois requires ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received up to two weeks after.
But in some, like Arizona and Florida, which both require absentee ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, or Michigan, which requires them received by the time polls close on Election Day, it may be too late to vote by mail.
“We are too close to Election Day, and the right to vote is too important to rely on the Postal Service to deliver absentee ballots on time,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “Citizens who already have an absentee ballot should sign the back of the envelope and hand-deliver it to their city or township clerk’s office or ballot drop box as soon as possible.”
Voters take advantage of early voting in Steubenville, Ohio, on March 15, 2020. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs wrote in a tweet on Tuesday: “Today is the last recommended day to mail back your ballot. After today, return your ballot to any election drop box or voting location in your county.”
“USPS recommends mailing your voted vote-by-mail ballot today to ensure it is received by your Supervisor of Elections’ office by the deadline on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. local time on Election Day,” Laurel M. Lee, Florida’s secretary of state, wrote in a tweet.
An official in Indiana, which requires ballots received by noon on Election Day, said voters should be mindful of deadlines if they want to ensure their votes count.
“We should really put that sense of urgency on voters that they are running out of time,” said Russell Hollis, deputy director with Marion County Clerk’s Office, in remarks to the Indianapolis Star.
In Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, ballots that are delivered in person must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, while mailed ballots can be received up to three days after, provided they are postmarked by Election Day.
“Put it in overnight mail to your county election office if you have to,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told the York Daily Record, “but we really recommend that you drop it off in person. There are more drop-off locations than ever before in Pennsylvania.”
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recommends mailing ballots at least seven days before a state’s deadline to ensure ample time for delivery. The agency’s on-time delivery rates dropped after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy began implementing new cost-cutting measures, although many of the changes have been reversed.
In this screenshot from the U.S. Senate’s livestream, U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies in Washington, on Aug. 21, 2020. (U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee via Getty Images)
According to the most recent USPS service performance report, for the week of Oct. 10 the agency reported 85.58 percent of first class mail was delivered on time and 97.81 percent was delivered within two days of the service standard.
DeJoy has pledged to prioritize election mail and supply additional resources to process it, including expedited handling, extra deliveries, and special pickups.
David Partenheimer, a spokesperson for USPS, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: “With a record number of people across the country voting by mail, the U.S. Postal Service’s number one priority between now and the November election is the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s election mail.
“As the postmaster general previously announced, continuing through Nov. 24, we are deploying extraordinary measures—expedited handling, extra deliveries, and special pickups—consistent with practices used in past elections to accelerate the delivery of ballots to its intended destination.
“These measures are on top of additional resources the Postal Service has allocated throughout October, including, but not limited to, expanded processing procedures, extra transportation, extra delivery and collection trips, and overtime, to ensure that election mail reaches its intended destination in a timely manner.”