Absentee ballots for the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia will start going out soon. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, it’s likely many Georgians will again choose to vote by mail.
Close to 2.5 million ballots have been cast by mail in Georgia for this election cycle, including a record 1.3 million in November. Across the country, more than 65 million Americans voted by mail in the November election.
That means the U.S. Postal Service, which was hampered by a re-organization earlier this year, has been busy trying to keep up.
“Lot of employees are more than willing and ready to let the Post Office shine and to show that we are essential employees,” said Chantriss Flanagan, a postal worker in Atlanta.
The American Postal Workers Union is touting the post office’s critical role in delivering election mail as it seeks $25 billion in COVID-19-related financial assistance for the USPS.
While many Georgians took advantage of absentee ballot drop boxes to return their ballots, each ballot first had to be delivered by mail. The Postal Service also handled many return absentee ballots and voter registration applications.
Slowdowns in mail delivery led to some ballots not being delivered by the 7 p.m. Election Night deadline in Georgia. But Flanagan says they went to great lengths to make sure as many ballots were delivered as possible.
“We had runners making sure that those ballots got to where they were supposed to go by 7 p.m.,” said Flanagan. “So, we have been working hard, and it has been a challenge, but it’s been an enjoyable challenge.”
But still, some voters never received their absentee ballots or precinct change cards because of the delays.
The runoff election in Georgia in January, which will determine control of the U.S. Senate, also comes smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, when mail volume surges with cards, gifts and packages.
“It’s just part a life in the post office,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “We do it during the weekends; we do it on the holidays; we’re here to serve; and we’re proud of what we do. We hope to have a good holiday season, especially at a time when people are so isolated with this raging pandemic.”