Editorial: Voters can avoid worries about postal service delays

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 16, 2020

People are justifiably concerned about the U.S. Post Office’s ability to handle what’s expected to be a deluge of absentee by mail ballots this year.

Already, there were expectations COVID-19 would produce historic increases in mail-in absentee ballots. And that projection meant local election boards needed expanded voting hours, protective gear and resources to count mailed ballots in a timely manner. But on Friday, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Postal Service was warning states, including North Carolina, that ballots may not arrive in time to be counted.

That may raise new concerns among local voters, but there are a couple steps people can take to ensure their vote is counted if they intend to request a mail-in absentee ballot.

First, request a ballot now if you intend to vote absentee by mail. The deadline to ask for a ballot is Oct. 27, but that may end up being too late if there are significant delays at the post office. The Rowan County Board of Elections will start sending out ballots on Sept. 4, which will give early requesters plenty of time to research candidates and cast their vote from the safety of their own home.

For those who intend to mail back their ballot, it must be received by 5 p.m. on Election Day or, for those received later, postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. So, it’s critical that people mailing back their ballot ask for it to be postmarked by U.S.P.S. workers.

But there’s another option: returning absentee by mail ballots in person.

Ballots can be returned by 5 p.m. on Election Day to the Rowan County Board of Elections Office — 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W. Suite D10. Returning the ballots in person can reduce the stress of standing in a line and, especially if it’s close to the deadline, avoid worries about whether the U.S. Postal Service will get ballots to the Board of Elections in time.

Only if the person is a spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepparent, stepchild or legal guardian can they drop off someone else’s ballot. County boards of elections keep track of who drops off each absentee by mail ballot.

Absentee by mail ballots cannot be turned in to a person’s polling place on Election Day.

Most people in Rowan County will still choose to vote in person, but those who want to vote absentee by mail need to know their ballots will be counted and that there are ways to avoid postal service delays.

For more information about absentee by mail voting, the Post published a full guide on the front page of the Aug. 2 edition (“With demand for mail-in ballots rising, here’s how to request, vote absentee in 2020”).

People can also contact the Rowan County Board of Elections directly if they have questions by calling 704-216-8140.

The latest available numbers show there have been more than 2,000 requests for mail-in absentee ballots, putting Rowan County on track to blast past any previous records for requests. Across the state requests are already 8.4 times what they were in 2016.