Postal Service’s financial stress might hurt its ability to handle large volume of mail-in ballots

The financial strain “could affect its ability to meet payroll, purchase gasoline, maintain vehicles and provide reliable service,” said James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame.

These are factors that some experts say could also lead to a decline in voter turnout in the general election as more states begin to rally around mail-in ballots.

Several states have begun planning for and expanding vote-by-mail measures to decrease the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing all registered voters in the state to receive a mail-in ballot for November’s election. And on Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said every registered voter will receive an application for an absentee ballot for the general election.

Connecticut is also mailing out absentee ballot applications, including postage-paid return. “This plan will allow a larger number of voters to vote by absentee ballot than ever before, and do it at no cost to the towns or the voters,” the office of Secretary of State Denise Merrill said.

The District of Columbia and 34 states, including five that conduct all-mail voting, use no-excuse absentee voting, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures

But Americans should not worry about missing mail, even with the added challenges brought on by the pandemic, the USPS said.

“The Postal Service has continued and will continue to serve its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic through the delivery of not only Election Mail, but also medicine, essential consumer staples, benefits checks, and important information,” USPS spokesperson Partenheimer told CNBC. 

At the same time, the USPS “recommends that election officials use First-Class Mail when mailing election materials (including blank ballots) to voters, and that voters mail their completed ballots at least 1 week before the due date to account for any unforeseen events or weather issues.”

But the concern that some Americans might not get to cast a ballot this November still exists. 

Rural communities might have the highest risk of low voter turnout, according to Betsy Huber, president of the National Grange, a nonprofit that advocates for support and equality for rural parts of the country.

Unlike other mail services, the USPS delivers to every ZIP code in the United States, a press release from the National Grange said, “leveling the playing field” for people in rural homes who often rely on their mail for connection.

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