There are reports that the U.S. Post Office has returned dozens of vote-by-mail ballots cast for the July 7 primary election back to voters, instead of delivering them to the county Board of Elections.
In these cases, voters who have completed their VBM ballot and returned them are finding their own ballots coming back to their homes, according to local election officials.
Postmarked ballots addressed to the county election office are instead being delivered by the post office to the return address of the voter.
The postal service acknowledged the mistakes.
“We are aware that some ballots were inadvertently returned to voters. We have no evidence that these pieces of mail were processed incorrectly. We regret any concern caused by their delay,” said Maureen P. Marion a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service. “We have continued to process and deliver ballots to voters as they are provided by, or on behalf of, Boards of Elections and are not aware of any widespread delays in advance of the July 7th elections.”
This is the latest in a series of postal mishaps involving an election that is being run entirely through mail-in ballots.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic New Jersey switched to all-VBM elections in 33 municipalities across ten counties on May 12, involving about 730,000 voters.
Thousands of ballots were delivered after the May 14 cutoff – hundreds of them postmarked on or before May 12 and hundreds more without any postmark at all, making it impossible for election officials to accept the ballots.
A mostly-VBM primary election moved from June 2 to July 7 will involve at least 4 million voters.
“The U.S. Mail serves as a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner. We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail, including ballots. This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local, county, and state levels. As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting and will continue to proactively conduct outreach with state and local election officials and Secretaries of State so that they can make informed decisions and educate the public about what they can expect when using the mail to vote,” Marion said. “As part of these outreach efforts, we will discuss our delivery processes and will consult with election officials about how they can design their mailings in a manner that comport with postal regulations, improve mailpiece visibility, and ensure efficient and cost-effective processing and delivery.”
This story was updated at 10:13 PM with comment from the U.S. Postal Service.