Post Office Delays Impact Mail Delivery and 2020 Campaigns

by Joe Fuld (He/Him) and Ben Holse (He/Him)

Post office delays

U.S. Post Office Delays & Slow Direct Mail Delivery in the 2020 Election

What is going on at the US Postal Service (USPS)? 
Have you experienced post office delays? Beyond the current political dysfunction, USPS has fallen victim to inconsistent funding, under-capitalization, ill-timed cost cutting measures and a lack of respect for the system and its workforce. On top of the ongoing pandemic, USPS will be facing an unprecedented influx of absentee ballots. Some of these vote-by-mail ballots will be in states like New York and Michigan where vote-by-mail is still fairly new and local USPS facilities will be unaccustomed to this volume. More than anything else, the influx in mail volume may be the biggest concern this election cycle.

Are there issues with postal delivery? 
USPS employees, postal workers and mail carriers are doing an incredible job under even more stress and pressure than usual in order to avoid post office delays. But changes to delivery processing, removing automation and other cost cutting measures are not helping with confidence in the post office which is why concerns are rising over post office delays. 

What does the state of the USPS mean for absentee ballots? 
Many states are changing rules for absentee ballot to allow folks to postmark ballots up to Election Day. Potential issues with USPS have led some states to open more drop off boxes and ballot tracking technology to ensure your ballot is counted. 

What does this all mean for political direct mail programs? 
No matter what kind of campaign you are running, there are many challenges this year for campaigns to overcome in order to deliver a successful mail program even with post office delays. Campaigns and organizations will need to make programmatic changes to run a successful mail program. 

Communicate early and start your mail programs early
Campaigns of all types and sizes will need to communicate earlier than ever before. For some campaigns, this may means starting their paid communications programs in August and running them through Election Day. In planning your direct mail calendar, it’s important to recognize that post office delays will cause direct mail to take longer to get to households. To safely get your mail in the hands of voters, you should be adding days to your direct mail program. How many days? That depends. Delivery will vary based on locality and the type of mail you are sending.

Track your mail and adjust accordingly 
Your organization or campaign must put multiple systems in place to track your mail program. Make sure you collect your drop ship paperwork, add seeds into your mailing, monitoring scans with services like TrackMyMail so you know where your mail is in the system. Take a look at how long it takes for mail to arrive in households if you are doing a program with multiple pieces so you can determine any post office delays and adjust subsequent drops accordingly. 

Be proactive 
When it comes to building and executing a direct mail program, be sure to follow all the best practices, especially planning and execution. Don’t set it and forget it. You need to make sure you are following up with your printer consistently and getting ongoing tracking and metrics. Build flexibility and accountability into your mail program and mail universes to make sure you are ready to solve the inevitable problems with effective solutions.

Encourage voters to vote early 
A lot of studies have been done on vote by mail and when voters return their ballots. In many cases, the vote by mail returns are a reverse bell curve, with most people returning their ballot either right after they get it or waiting until the very last minute. This year, in your communications you should be encouraging voters to return their ballot as soon as they can. If you’re doing a ballot chase program, making sure you include a note about how important it is to return your ballot early and (where applicable) tracking your ballot to make sure it arrives. 

Expand to other communications mediums 
Direct mail is a great targeted communications medium, but there are many others. Use digital advertising, organic digital, social media, virtual field (relational organizing, texting, phone calls and virtual meetings) and other paid communications mediums to enhance your campaign outreach. 

What should a political campaign do? 
Persuade early and engage early. Encourage voters to vote as early as possible and during off-peak times like during weekdays or first thing in the morning. Establish a program to follow up with voters who are planning to vote-by-mail. Make the outreach custom to your campaign from planning to execution. Never assume voters know your campaign, why they should vote for you, or know where and how to vote. This is especially true for a down ballot campaign on a presidential ballot.

What should membership organizations do? 
Communicate early and often. Don’t wait until it’s too late, communicate to your members as soon as you can and frequently. Membership organizations are typically trusted sources of information for their members. Use your platform to explain the voting process timing and voting locations, in many places it has all changed since the last election. Safety is important  so let members know the safest option. Voting by mail, early in the mail process as well as early voting, early in the early voting process.  

What can companies do? 
Companies can make it easier for their employees to vote. If your company is in an early vote state or your employees have trouble voting on Election Day, give your employees paid time off to vote and make it easier for them.

What should voters do? 
Vote safely and vote early. If you can get an absentee ballot fill it out and mail it back as soon and as early as possible. If your locality allows you to, drop it off at your clerk’s office or at a designated box. Plan for the safest time to vote, whether that’s by mail, early in person, or on Election Day. If you do plan to vote in person early, do it either first thing in the morning or on a weekday within the earliest window you can. But you can do even more. Confirm you are registered at your current address. Ask your family to make sure they are registered and to either vote early or return their absentee ballot. Know your local rules for voting. get your friends and family to commit to voting. Make sure they have a plan. Apply for USPS informed delivery so you can track your absentee ballot to know when it is coming.

What can the post office do? 
USPS knows that there’s a lot of mail that moves during election season and it staffs up accordingly. USPS should not make “cost cutting” changes during this time. USPS should be empowering its great staff to do the important job of delivering mail. 

What can the federal government do? 
The federal government needs to pass funding for the post office to make sure it can deal with the influx of volume coming this political season. The USPS is an essential service and it needs support.   

What can state and local governments do? 
Voting by mail and the post office are not political footballs.  State and local governments need to make it as easy as possible for people to vote, whether it’s by mail, absentee, early or in person. Allowing for no-fault vote by mail is a first step, but there’s more that state and local governments can do to make voting more accessible.   

How will all of this affect elections?
Voters are concerned about voting this election and rightfully so. During COVID-19 voting in person can be dangerous.  Post office delays may make it hard for folks to receive mail and send their ballots in on time. But there are things the post office, governments, campaigns and voters can do to make it easier. 

*Credit to The Campaign Workshop for the postal graphics

Have questions about post office delays and direct mail campaigns? Ask them here.