In spite of Joe Biden’s support for voting by mail in the upcoming presidential election, the possibility of fraud as President Trump has suggested is real, but there are other problems with voting by mail that have nothing to do with fraud. One problem is the United States Postal Service. I worked for the post office in Amsterdam, New York for five years. I was a clerk most of the time, but I also carried mail when needed, worked the stamp window and was a substitute supervisor. With the exception of a couple of bosses—particularly one who said “I don’t care if you lose both arms and both legs, you have to come to work the next day. I’ll use you for a paper weight”—all the employees were decent, hardworking people.
As a postal customer for many decades, shipping out about a thousand packages most years, I am for the most part satisfied with the postal service. However, the postal service does make mistakes, enough mistakes that I would rather vote in person than by mail.
Several times a year, my carrier delivers mail to me that belongs to someone else. I am good about making sure that mail gets delivered to the right person, but I doubt everyone is. Even if misdelivered ballots eventually end up in the right mail box, they are no good if they arrive too late.
A couple of years ago, I mailed four packages from Amsterdam on the same day. They went missing. Months later, after I had already refunded money to my customers, they were delivered.
Sometimes employees steal mail, and sometimes people steal mail out of other people’s mail box. Just last week, mail was stolen from the Gloversville post office. While you wouldn’t think that people would bother stealing ballots, in the current political climate, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Mail is lost every year due not only to theft, but also to fire, floods and other natural disasters and errors by employees. On one occasion while working at the Amsterdam Post Office, I emptied a mail sack only to find several letters at the bottom that were years old.
Another way mail gets lost is the wind catches it when a carrier or clerk is emptying a mail box. I can’t tell you how many times I endangered my life chasing mail across Church Street. Mail also often gets down in the small space behind cluster boxes and lingers there for years. Postal machinery takes a toll on the mail by ripping envelopes sometimes to the point the letter cannot be delivered.
When I worked at the post office, clerks sorted mail that couldn’t be delivered into a pigeonhole labeled Nixies. Later in the day, a clerk would collect the nixies and try to determine if they could be delivered. What couldn’t be delivered was sent to the dead letter office, providing it was first class mail. Nixies were considered low priority, so if the post office was real busy, they might go several days without anyone attending to them.
It is difficult to determine the pecentage of mail that doesn’t get delivered either due to theft, natural disasters, postal errors or errors by mailers. For argument’s sake, let’s say 1/10th of one percent is undeliverable. There were 153 million registered voters in 2018. If 153 million ballots are mailed out, then most likely 153 thousand will not get delivered. Others will be lost on the return trip.
Some problems with voting by mail are outside the realm of the postal service. Sometimes letters cannot be delivered because they are wrongly addressed by the sender. Writing to the Schenectady Gazette on August 11, John Basile of Stillwater claimed that he, his wife and his neighbor never got their school election ballots. In this case, it might not have been the post office’s fault. The fault might lie with the school board. Nevertheless, if Basile had been able to vote in person, this would not have happened.
According to a July 13, 2020 AP report, California rejected 100 thousand mail-in ballots in the March 2020 primary, because they were either mailed too late or not signed. That also wouldn’t happen if people voted in person.
When you vote in person, you never have to worry about receiving a ballot. You never have to worry about whether your ballot arrived at the Board of Elections. And you will never forget to sign your ballot because there will be someone there to see you do. Even without fraud, voting by mail increases the chance your vote won’t count. Better to put on a mask and vote in person.
Daniel T. Weaver