Election day is right around the corner, and a lot of attention has been focused on voting by mail here in the U.S. But did you know there are also mail-in ballots coming in from Americans overseas? Even before the pandemic, the Postal Service processed international election and political mail for eligible U.S. citizens throughout the world, including military and diplomatic members and their families, as well as other Americans abroad. In fact, during the 2016 election, over 600,000 Americans abroad sent their ballots to their home states.
The Postal Service has five International Service Centers (ISC) – in New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – that handle international election and political mail. In the upcoming presidential election, it’s expected the Chicago facility will receive about 80 percent of inbound military and diplomatic mail ballots.
So, is the Postal Service ready? The OIG released an audit on Military, Diplomatic, and Other International Election Mail, which evaluated the Postal Service’s preparedness for processing international election mail, including military and diplomatic mail.
Our report found a number of factors have complicated the processing of incoming ballots this year. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suspended mail between the U.S. and many countries, though the number of suspensions has dropped significantly. In addition, COVID-19 has affected the Postal Service workforce domestically, causing high levels of absenteeism, negatively affecting processing at many facilities including the ISCs.
The good news, as we note in the report, is that international mail operations appear to have significantly improved recently. But challenges remain.
Have you ever voted by international mail? Do you know anyone who will in the upcoming election?