Election and Political Mail are part of a long tradition in American political history.
- Election Mail is any item mailed to or from authorized election officials that enables citizens to participate in the voting process. It includes items such as ballots, voter registration cards, and absentee applications that an authorized election official creates for voters.
- Political Mail is any mailpiece sent for political campaign purposes by a registered candidate, a campaign committee, or a committee of a political party to promote candidates, referendums, or campaigns. Material mailed by a political action committee or organization engaging in issues advocacy or voter mobilization is also considered political mail.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Americans voting by mail rather than going to polls increased significantly. As we detailed in our June 2021 white paper, Vote by Mail and the Postal Service: A Primer, in the November 2020 election, 46 percent of votes were cast by mail compared to only 21 percent in the 2016 election.
Accordingly, the OIG expanded its monitoring and oversight of the Postal Service’s ability to timely process and deliver Election Mail for the 2020 election. We conducted site visits to observe and monitor operations at postal facilities around the country as described in our report Service Performance of Election and Political Mail During the November 2020 General Election.
The OIG is continuing this work in the runup to the 2022 mid-term elections. As a first step, we audited the Postal Service’s readiness for these elections by examining Postal Service operations during the primaries. The Postal Service processed nearly 10 million more Election Mail pieces from April through June this year than in 2020. In the audit, Election Mail Readiness for the 2022 Mid-Term Elections, we found that the Postal Service is generally ready to process Election Mail on time during the mid-term elections, although we did find some problems and recommend improvements. We are currently undertaking another audit that will monitor the Postal Service’s compliance with Election Mail processing and delivery procedures for the elections on November 8, 2022, as we did for the 2020 elections. We plan to visit 500 Postal Service facilities across the country including processing plants, delivery units, and International Service throughout October and early November into the actual election week.