As the ever-lengthening election season gears up, you can expect to receive more political mail. Political mail – also called campaign mail – provides a nice revenue lift for the U.S. Postal Service during election years. In fiscal year 2014, the Postal Service earned more than $317 million from political mail.
But there is another opportunity for the Postal Service during election years: voting by mail. Every state allows voting by mail via absentee ballot under certain circumstances. More than half of states allow any registered voter to vote via absentee ballot by mail without an excuse. And three states – Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – conduct elections entirely by mail.
Our recent audit report found the Postal Service could increase voting by mail as a way to boost volume and revenue by about $2 million a year. Beyond revenue, however, voting by mail boasts a number of benefits, and not just for the Postal Service. The convenience and accessibility of voting by mail would likely increase turnout. In addition, voting by mail allows voters more time to consider their choices because absentee ballots are mailed to voters well in advance of Election Day.
Benefits extend as well to localities, which might see costs decline due to fewer polling sites and related equipment required and less need to recruit and train poll workers. One study indicated that conducting an election by mail in one particular state’s general election would cut costs by as much as 45 percent. Finally, voting by mail provides more time to process votes.
Our report noted that the Postal Service has not taken full advantage of these opportunities because it has focused its marketing and sales efforts on the larger, more lucrative political mail market. We recommended the Postal Service develop a marketing and sales strategy for election mail.
Share your thoughts on voting by mail. Would you like your state to offer “no excuse” voting by mail? Do you think civic culture is hurt when citizens have no opportunity to vote at a polling station?