A free and transparent election is arguably the most significant component of our democracy and separates the U.S. from dictatorships and corrupt governments around the world. With the added complexities of Covid-19, major news outlets report, in-person voting has become more restrictive and worrisome for many Americans seeking a way to preserve their safety while not sacrificing their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.
Implementing a system that addresses the perceived challenges for high volume mail-in ballots, reducing the current concerns of invalidating the 2020 election with proof and accountability, would provide a valid voter option and strengthen voter confidence for citizens of America and the world.
Voting has a long history of logistical challenges and perceived interference. This whitepaper is focused solely on the potential to strengthen the mail-in ballot process to gain transparency and present the opportunity to be proactive in addressing the anomalies. It is not a guarantee or fix to all of the concerns surrounding the voting process but represents a good faith effort to identify the inherent problems for the mail-in ballot and create solutions to be built upon for the 2020 election and/or future elections.
➢ Data accuracy – reportedly, ballots in many states have been addressed to deceased individuals, misdelivered to old addresses, duplicated to the same individual or not delivered due to poor address quality.
➢ USPS capability of delivering high volumes of mail in a specific turnaround time is in question.
➢ Opportunity for USPS accidental or purposeful mismanagement of mail.
➢ Public perception. With all the mixed messaging and confusion, the American public needs proof of service to rebuild confidence in the election process.
➢ A non-partisan plan that addresses the other 4 challenges. Voting is not a party issue; it is an American issue seeking an agnostic approach.
For decades, marketers have worked with the USPS to develop programs that optimize the USPS for their core competency; local, daily delivery 6 days a week. Mail logistics organizations have built their businesses in support of these programs and help move mail across the country and drop into the USPS as close to the end delivery point as possible, visibility all along the way.
The world of target marketing mastered the art of data management to add a unique ID to each and every mail piece providing the ability to watch it from departure to delivery and when wisely used, can monitor the response piece back.
Proven and tested, these existing, decades old, programs and systems have been refined and modernized along the way. The content inside the envelope may differ but for the purpose of voter ballots, it simply applies the technology in a new way. Therefore, this solution could be implemented quickly.
The Non-Partisan Opportunity:
While nothing can be guaranteed 100%, the opportunity for accounting and visibility provides comfort in knowing which ballots were received and which were not. For the smaller percentage of undelivered mailed, resources can be focused on resolutions which could include communication, re-issuing , and reporting. This use of 21st century technology takes us from blind faith to live, visible results.
1) List management
(a) Mailing list: A mailing is only as successful as the data provided. The mail logistics company would work with the state’s appointed representative to determine the best list to use as a baseline. We would likely recommend using multiple lists that would be systematically compared to help in the accuracy of the information. The name and address information is public but, as an extra precaution, source of the data can remain confidential to remove privacy concerns.
(b) Data validation and standardization: There are national standards for the appearance of an address on an envelope that aid in deliverability of mail. In addition, there is a standard process for removing deceased Americans as well as duplications in the list.
Reasonable priority rules have long been established for these processes. Those addresses that are dropped from the final mailing list are compiled and returned thus accounting for 100% of the names and addresses. Additional processes can be implemented to confirm these actions are accurate and appropriate.
These standard best practices produce the final mailing list of accurate, deliverable addresses, providing confidence in recipient validation.
2) Unique Identification & Accounting
(a) Each ballot would be coded with a unique identification and barcode. This would match back to a specific individual and their personal address from the final mailing list. The identifier would NOT indicate any personal information including the party in which they are registered.
The envelope or carrier that would be used to return the ballot to the voting authorities would also be coded with a unique identifier and barcode to view its travels back. This is called a match mailing.
The final mailing list would be amended with this unique identifier and loaded into a database capable of reporting the ballots whereabouts up until its last scan (Scan 918/919) at the USPS Sectional Center Facility (SCF). This is its final stop before heading to the local, neighborhood post office (DDU) and indicates its expected arrival into the end mailbox within 24-48 hours.
For final delivery visibility to the voter’s mailbox, our system receives a logical scan (scan 517) indicating the mail is on the carrier’s truck and using GPS technology, assumes the passing of the mailbox indicates it has been delivered.
Additionally, the USPS has been promoting a service called, Informed Delivery, which allows every resident to receive emails of scanned images of the mail being delivered into their mailbox daily. 23.5 million households/29.8 million users in the U.S. have already signed up for this program and with a marketing campaign, more voters could be enticed to sign up for complete end-to-end visibility.
Coordination with the USPS could offer other seamless possibilities since the data is already collected.
These steps above act as proof the ballot has been received by the voter and where there are exceptions, allows for reporting and proactive response.
(b) The loaded list in the database would also include the unique ID from the return envelope/carrier so it too can be monitored from the point of entry in the USPS system (the voters local post office) until delivered (Scan 918/919) to the last SCF closest to the local post office of the voting authority.
Comparisons of reported scans from the SCF and the final receipt of ballots acts as proof the ballot was officially received and presumably counted.
Mail logistics companies offers sorting and logistics tools that provides bulk mail services that bypass the USPS system until the final point of delivery – for which the USPS is uniquely prepared. This has allowed our clients to gain speed and efficiency that the USPS cannot provide but still reap the benefit of in-home delivery.
By applying this same methodology to the distribution of blank ballots, we reduce the workflow impact on the USPS.
This process removes the potential for delays in the delivery of ballots to the home.
Daily reporting allows the viewer (official overseer) to see how many pieces are still undelivered and where they were last scanned in the process. These are standard scans used in today’s USPS system and have long helped marketers to know if parts of their mailings are delayed due to weather, volume, or any other delivery barrier. This reporting helps them to adjust plans but also to follow up with specific USPS check points to locate delayed pieces and push them through for eventual delivery.
In the case of ballots, confidence of delivery is gained because it provides the capability of monitoring and identification of intentional and unintentional mishandling of mail.
For returns, close monitoring of the mail pieces journey will provide proof of proper handling and receipt of the voter’s ballot.
This capability for transparency creates opportunity to re-build voter confidence.
1) Because the database will report what was sent, if no delivery is reported, systems can be established to send a new ballot promptly. In the event both ballots are returned, it can be tracked and intercepted so that only one remains valid.
2) Systems/processes can be created to follow up on missing returned ballots and problems can be rectified.
3) With additional resources, for the 2020 election or future elections, uses of this data can consider in person voting combined with mail-in ballots as an added layer of protection against voter fraud. This approach models todays innovative retailers using a hybrid of brick-and-mortar and online services to support their customers which would similarly elevate the voting experience for America.