Stand Up and Deliver. Ballots!
FedEx, Amazon, UPS Legally Can Deliver Mail Ballots in Most States
Commercial delivery of ballots is legal in most states. This is important because recent budget cuts and management changes leave the US Postal Service needing help to deliver the unprecedented increase of mail-in ballots. Who better to help than American companies that have already earned the nation’s trust delivering the mail and more?
The follow analysis shows the capability and legality of Federal Express, Amazon, UPS, and others to offering for free to accept ballots at trucks, drop boxes, and storefronts around the country. This mail ballot pickup and delivery has the built-in security that every commercially transported ballot will be barcoded and tracked, providing a chain-of-custody beyond criticism. Mobilizing our country’s extensive commercial delivery infrastructure to speed mail voting envelopes to election offices will assure all the ballots arrive.
Current Legal Status
Nine states across the political spectrum specifically allow commercial delivery of ballots. The Tennessee Secretary of State voter instruction website states, “You must return your ballot by mail (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.).” Oklahoma provides for ballot “hand delivery, United States mail or by a private mail service, provided such service has delivery documentation” which all the commercial services provide. Indiana allows a “bonded courier” and the Alabama voter may legally return “the absentee ballot by commercial carrier.” Alaska ballots can be sent by “the U.S. Postal Service or a private commercial delivery service.” Nebraska and Louisiana allow “a commercial courier, or the U.S. Postal Service.” West Virginia allows for both “mail postmarked by the US Postal Service” and “mail without postmark” which represents commercial services. In its election fraud statute, Texas states that “A person possessing an envelope of another voter does not commit an offense if that person is … a U.S. postal service employee; or a common or contract carrier.”
A National Conference of State Legislatures report, Voting Outside the Polling Place, identified 13 states that “are silent” on who can deliver a mail ballot for a voter. Added to the nine states above, this means that 44% of the states allow commercial ballot delivery.
In contrast, only four state laws or voter websites require use of “federal” or “USPS” or “US Mail.” Montana is the only state to require ballots to be postmarked. Other state references to postmarks are not requirements, rather, are used to authenticate arrival time to determine whether last minute ballots will be counted. The battleground states of Ohio, Iowa, and Georgia are among those requiring Post Office delivery.
Other battleground states join many states that do not clearly define “mail” or “delivery.” Arizona requires use of “the pre-paid envelope” but does not specify which service may deliver this envelope. Wisconsin voter instructions state that “the ballot must be returned so it can be delivered to the polling place” but the law does not specify who can or cannot return a mail ballot. Florida requires only that the voter “Mail, deliver, or have delivered the completed mailing envelope.”
Michigan requires that delivery be made by “a person whose job normally includes the handling of mail.” Pennsylvania shows a picture of a mailbox on its Voting by Mail-In Ballot website, but its new election law only says “by mail” not specifying US Mail. Colorado states, “Any person of the elector's own choice … may be designated to mail or deliver a mail ballot.”
Commercial mail services will need to comply with a range of restrictions on who can handle a ballot in more than 20 states. Standard commercial delivery service paperwork should comply with South Carolina’s law that “A voter may authorize another person to return the ballot in writing.” Commercial delivery will have to meet South Dakota’s requirement that if delivering more than one ballot, the messenger must “notify the person in charge of elections.” Oregon requires pickup locations to post a sign stating: “NOT AN OFFICIAL BALLOT DROP SITE.” Several states require an affidavit from the voter. More difficult will be Nebraska, Minnesota, and New Jersey which limit to two or three the number of ballots an “agent” may deliver. The vast majority of states require that the envelope provided be used to return the ballot which will require that any tracking barcodes or other commercial service instructions be applied as a sticker on the envelope, which all services can do. These restrictions may complicate, but do not prevent, the use of commercial mail services in these states.
To avoid post-election litigation, commercial delivery companies will need to engage with states immediately. Firm plans to deliver by FedEx, Amazon, and UPS should begin in the nine states that specifically allow commercial delivery. In the 13 states that are silent in their laws on who can deliver, companies need to get prior confirmation by each state's top election official. Similarly, in the more than 20 states with restrictions or without clear definitions, companies will want clear legal authorization by the state.
Plus, an unintended benefit may be much-needed nonpartisanship in this election. With Amazon’s past political donations leaning Democrat and FedEx and UPS donations leaning Republican, we should see rare agreement to end this attack on democracy and assure that every vote will arrive to be counted.
Author: James W. Morentz, Ph.D., Executive Director, Single Automated Business Exchange for Reporting Institute (www.SABERspace.org), a nonprofit dedicated to business-government information exchange in a disaster to get businesses back in business faster.
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