By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Secretary of State John Merrill said he’s not concerned about Alabama absentee voters’ ballots being impacted by the U.S. Postal Service’s mail delivery, but he is urging everyone who wishes to submit an absentee application to do so soon .
“If you want to vote by mail, you need to vote by mail today,” Merrill told Alabama Daily News on Monday.
Even though the USPS warned states across the nation on Friday that they cannot guarantee that all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted, Merrill says that if Alabamians’ ballots don’t get counted in time, it will be their own fault.
“If you mail it in today, you will know whether or not you have a problem,” Merrill said. “If you don’t mail it in today and you wait, and wait and let two, three or four weeks go by then you say you’ve got a problem, well you’ve got a problem that you’ve created, is what you’ve got.”
The letters sent to states from the USPS warned that voters who request ballots near the deadlines under state law risk not having them returned in time to be counted.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in his own letter to Democratic congressional leaders last week that his office is merely “asking elected officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works, and be mindful of our delivery standards, in order to provide voters ample time to cast ballots through the mail,” the Associated Press reported.
The Postal Service said it has stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers, the AP reported Monday. DeJoy is expected to testify before a House committee next week.
Democrats and some Republicans say actions by the new postmaster general, a President Donald Trump ally and a major Republican donor, have endangered millions of Americans who rely on the post office to obtain prescription drugs and other needs, including an expected surge in mail-in voting this fall.
Merrill said he has heard of problems with the USPS when it comes to mail-in voting since 2016 and thinks the postal service is “one of the most ineffective and inefficient services that’s provided by the federal government.”
Democratic congressional leaders have been pushing for more money to be given to the USPS in the next coronavirus relief package to handle election security concerns but Merrill says more money won’t solve the USPS’ problems.
“If I had $10 million that I gave to the postal service, I’m not confident that that money would be used to improve the delivery of absentee ballot applications or absentee ballots and I don’t think throwing money at the problem is the answer,” Merrill said.
He said the USPS has never been a good steward of taxpayer resources and no amount of financial assistance given to the postal service now will help the Nov. 3 election.
Merrill said those who are concerned about the USPS not delivering their ballot application or ballot in time to be counted should consider using other carriers such as UPS, FedEx or any other regional or nationally recognized carriers. People who do not want to mail in their absentee ballot through various mail carriers can also return it in person to their county’s absentee election manager.
Alabama voters have until Oct. 19 to register to vote. If voters wish to vote absentee because of concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, they must apply to vote by Oct. 29 and absentee ballots must be received by the absentee election manager’s office by noon on Nov. 3.
Merrill said he expects a historic voter turnout this year for both in-person voting and absentee voting.
He said he expects to have between 125,000-150,000 absentee ballot applications returned and possibly more than 100,000 absentee ballots returned. The most Alabama has ever voted by absentee ballots is “88,000-plus,” Merrill said.
He also thinks more than 2.5 million to 2.8 million people will still go to the polls in Alabama on election day.
Merrill said his office plans to continue their media campaign across various platforms to make sure all Alabamians are aware of upcoming deadlines and procedures for absentee voting.