Postal Updates

Unsent absentee mail ballots discovered in Milwaukee

Apr 16, 2020, 8 AM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

Just as Democrats in the House of Representatives were poised to launch a bid to fund more voting-by-mail programs, the discovery of three tubs of unsent absentee mail ballots in a Milwaukee, Wis., postal center seems likely to cast a shadow over the issue.

The discovery has angered both Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin and fueled Republican anger in Washington, D.C., over voting by mail.

It’s even become one of President Donald Trump’s latest postal issues.

“I think voting by mail is a terrible thing,” the president told reporters April 7.

Trump acknowledged that he voted by mail for Florida’s March 17 Republican primary, but the president said he fears mail voting could be beset by fraud.

Without citing specifics, Trump said he could envision “thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing [mail] ballots.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., launched what the political news organization Politico called a “fierce” attack two days later on the Democrats’ plans to place funding for mail voting in the next coronavirus COVID-19 economic relief bill.

He also called the plan “disgusting” and left no doubt that the Republican Party will attack it.

McCarthy said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had attempted to place a voting-by-mail provision in the first coranvirus economic relief bill.

“I told her this is not the place or time for it,” he said. “Let’s focus on this virus, let’s cure the problem, get our economy back on its feet and then we can debate about elections.”

Pelosi defended her party’s plan.

“We have a different value system about what voting means to a democracy,” she said.

Democrats want to remove “all obstacles to participation,” she told reporters.

The fear of long lines of voters, such as those in the April 7 Wisconsin primary, is a problem that can be resolved by mail balloting, Democrats are saying.

That makes what is being investigated by the Postal Service’s inspector general in Wisconsin all the more important.

Wisconsin senators Robert Johnson, a Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, asked for the investigation April 9, saying they were alarmed by numerous reports that absentee ballots were not delivered to voters in time for the primary.

And there was that discovery of three tubs of absentee ballots from Appleton and Oshkosh that were found in Milwaukee’s mail processing plant after polls were closed.

“We are concerned there may be more examples and request that you promptly open an investigation to the cause of these failures, which appear to have disenfranchised many Wisconsin voters,” the two senators said in their letter to the inspector general.

David Partenheimer, a United States Postal Service spokesman, said in a statement April 10 that the USPS was aware of the issue.

“It is important to note that throughout every election cycle, the U.S. Postal Service works with state and local election officials to ensure the timely delivery of election mail,” he said.

“The United States Mail system serves as a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process and the Postal Service is committed to delivery election mail in a timely manner,” Partenheimer said.

Results from a Reuters/Ipsos poll published online April 7 found that 72 percent of all U.S. adults favored mail-in ballots for the November elections if there is a continued health problem this fall.

The national survey found that 79 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans supported mail-in ballots as a way to protect voters.

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