Posted on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Overcoming Federal Election Subversion
Today I submitted a letter to Post Master General DeJoy demanding answers regarding operational changes to our local post offices that are causing concerns about the return of absentee ballots for the upcoming November Presidential election. Due to recent changes, the USPS cannot guarantee that all ballots cast by mail will arrive in time to be counted. This forces Wisconsinites to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and protecting their health during a pandemic. You can read the entire letter here.
Prior to DeJoy’s actions, I secured a $1,271,788.00 grant from the Center for Tech & Civic Life to be used exclusively for the public purpose of planning and operationalizing safe and secure election administration in the City of Madison. I am grateful to the leadership of the Clerk’s Office and poll workers for actively putting that grant into action.
Some of the ways we are already working to balance the health and safety needs of Madison residents during the coronavirus pandemic with the essential right to vote include:
- Encouraging and increasing absentee voting by mail and early, in-person. Absentee ballots for the November election will be in the mail by September 17, 2020. You can request and track the status of your absentee ballot on the My Vote website.
- Providing assistance to help voters comply with absentee ballot requests and certification requirements. The most common reason for a rejected ballot is lack of voter signature. Be sure to include your signature plus a witness signature on the absentee ballot before returning to the Clerk’s Office.
- Utilizing secure drop-boxes to facilitate return of absentee ballots. The goal for the November 2020 Presidential Election is to provide fourteen drop boxes equitably distributed across the city. Site location details are still being finalized and will be promoted well in advance of the election on the Clerk’s Office website.
- Deploying additional staff improvements to expedite and improve accuracy of absentee ballot processing.
- Expanding strategic voter education and outreach efforts, particularly in historically disenfranchised residents. The City will be producing videos introduce voters to the election process, voting options, and to explain the safety precautions taken at polls and early voting sites. Additionally, beginning September 22nd (National Voter Registration Day), the Clerk’s Office will have poll workers stationed throughout the city to register voters and accept the delivery of absentee ballots. These poll workers will be able to serve as a witness if needed. Locations, days, and hours will be added to the Clerk’s Office website.
- Expanding in-person early voting, including curbside voting. The City plans to provide over 20 in-person absentee voting locations for the thirteen days leading up to the November election. Check out the Clerk’s Office website for details.
- Launching poll worker recruitment, training and safety efforts.
- Ensuring safe and efficient Election Day administration. This includes needs for hand sanitizer for all poll workers and voters, disinfectant spray, plexi-glass shields, face shields for curbside election officials, and face masks for all poll workers and observers.
Our efforts to implement these combined actions under the grant began with the August 11, 2020 election. As a result of this great work, we saw a 39.1% voter turnout of which over 80% of ballots were cast absentee. Turnout is up from 22% in the August 2018 election.
For important context on the August 2020 election, 0.28 percent of absentee ballots were rejected. The main reason for rejection was the lack of a voter signature. This matches the rejection rate in August 2016, but is higher than the 0.2 percent rejection rate in August 2018.
Given this new era of high absentee ballot requests that is being put in jeopardy by the decisions of the Post Master General, we must all be aware of the actions we can take to ensure the highest turnout possible in this upcoming election:
- Request your absentee ballot today on the My Vote website. Ballots will be mailed by September 17, 2020.
- Once you receive your ballot in the mail, return it as soon as you are able.
- Options for returning ballots:
- Mail in as soon as possible. Be sure to give ample time for delivery to ensure your ballot is received on time and your vote counts.
- In person drop off sites. Again, site location details are still being finalized and will be promoted well in advance of the election on the Clerk’s Office website.
- If you prefer to vote absentee, in-person, Madison voters will have over 20 locations to choose from. Check out the Clerk’s Office website for details on locations.
In addition to preparing voters for the November election, the Clerk’s Office is also looking for sites across the city to serve as polling locations to ensure equitable access. Check out my blog from the previous election for details on location requirements and available incentives.
For up to date information on changes, you can also follow the Clerk's Office on Twitter @MadisonWIClerk.
Together through proactive actions outlined here, we will not allow decisions by the Post Master General to detract us from guaranteeing all eligible residents the right to vote. Let’s get out the vote and share this important information, Madison!