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Audit Reports

Report Number:
Report Type:
Audit Reports
Category: Election and Political Mail, Strategy & Investments

Election Mail Opportunities

Background Elections provide opportunities for U.S. citizens to support a candidate or agenda and participate in the political process. In addition to federal and state elections, local elections are held to select municipal officials and school board members and to decide public policy issues. Election jurisdictions typically hold between two and eight elections per year.Generally citizens use one of three methods to cast their votes — a traditional polling place via electronic or paper ballot, an absentee paper ballot, or early in-person voting. Although traditional poll voting is still the most popular method, voting by mail is increasing across broad segments of the American electorate. For example, in the 2014 midterm federal election, 25 percent of voters cast ballots by mail — an increase of 3.5 percent over the 2012 presidential election. Internet voting is promising, but is currently limited to uniformed and overseas voters.Every state allows voting by mail via absentee ballot under certain circumstances. Some require an excuse such as illness or out of town travel. More than half of U.S. states allow any registered voter to vote by mail via absentee ballot without an excuse. Three states — Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — conduct elections entirely by mail. All states permit military personnel stationed overseas, their dependents, and other U.S. citizens living abroad to vote by absentee ballot. Election mail is any mailpiece created by an authorized voting registration official and mailed to or from a citizen as part of the voting, registration, and election process. Election mail includes mail-in ballots and ballot materials, voter registration cards, absentee applications, and polling place notifications. Political mail is not official election mail and promotes political candidates, referenda, or campaigns.Our objective was to evaluate voting methods to identify opportunities to increase voting by mail.What the OIG FoundThe U.S. Postal Service has opportunities to increase voting by mail to grow mail volume and revenue. Voting by mail offers benefits to voters and election officials yet, on average, only 24 percent of voters in states that allow voting by mail with no excuse took advantage of this option in the 2012 presidential election. The Postal Service has the opportunity to expand voting by mail as election officials face challenges in replacing aging and outdated election equipment. Finally, Internet alternatives will likely not be viable for widespread use until security concerns are addressed.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 and has not developed a marketing and sales strategy for election mail. 

Report Recommendations

# Recommendation Status Value Management Response OIG Response USPS Proposed Resolution

R - 1 -- We recommended the vice president, Sales develop a strategy to increase voting by mail to grow election mail volume and revenue.

Closed $0 Disagree