My turn, Joe Fowler: Why did absentee ballots arrive after primary voting day?

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 22, 2020

By Joe Fowler

In the Washington Post, Mark Niquette wrote, “Elections are a hallmark of democracy. Voting in the U.S.? That’s complicated. The nation’s founders restricted the vote to those who held property or paid taxes, which effectively meant white men. Even now, decades after constitutional amendments enfranchised blacks and women, most felons can’t vote, most people have to work on Election Day, some states require advance registration to vote, people without proper identification might not have their vote counted and letting voters send their ballots by mail is highly contested, even during a pandemic. Leaving office in 2017, former President Barack Obama described the U.S. as ‘the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier.’ ”

Now we find ourselves in May 2020, about six months from the next election, with a lawsuit being filed to purge voting rolls and a lawsuit to allow voting by mail. At first glance, they do not have anything in common, but upon further scrutiny, they both utilize the same vehicle to accomplish their task. It could actually cause common ground for some bipartisan work.

Both lawsuits would use the U.S. Postal Service to accomplish their goals. President Donald Trump has said that he will not give the Post Office any federal aid and also that he would like to see it privatized. The USPS was created by the U.S. Constitution and the power to privatize lies with the U.S. Congress. The purpose and duties of the USPS have grown and evolved since the 19th century.

That back story brings me to the reason for this letter. On February 13, our daughter requested an absentee ballot from the Rowan County Board of Elections. It was processed and put in the mail on the 13th, as called for by the policy of our Board of Elections.

Our Board of Elections works hard to make sure all the rules and policies are followed, many times under very adverse conditions.

Our daughter received her absentee ballot on March 7. The primary election was held on March 3. Her absentee ballot took 24 days to travel 610 road miles by first class postage.

On February 28, our daughter called me to report that she had done everything correct by following the new absentee ballot request guidelines, as passed by our North Carolina General Assembly and had not received her ballot.

On February 28, the Rowan BOE mailed out another absentee ballot to the same address, 610 miles away. She received it on March 11, meaning that the second ballot took 13 days with first class postage to arrive at its destination.

Upon investigation, by contacting several individual post offices, I learned that absentee ballots are handled in different ways to ensure timely arrival and one could speculate about untimely arrival also. Both of the mailing envelopes were prominently marked indicating “official election mail,” “official absentee balloting material” and “first-class mail.” With all the polarization going on in this country, it would not be hard to develop a conspiracy theory rooted in the USPS.

Joe Fowler lives in Salisbury.