As Nov. 3 approaches, Wisconsin residents are getting ready to do their civic duty and vote in the Presidential election, but many have raised concerns about voting by mail.

With COVID-19 challenges this election year, many voters are turning to absentee ballots. While this is not an uncommon method of voting, it has become a concern that the United States Postal Service is not prepared to handle the high number of absentee ballots this Election Day.

Thousands of Wisconsin voters and poll workers have expressed this concern to Wisconsin Congressional Senator Tammy Baldwin, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Currently, only one of two automated flat mail sorting machines will be operating in the Madison post office. If something goes wrong, these machines can go down for around 12 hours, according to WSJ.

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In July earlier this year, Postmaster Louis DeJoy and the postal services attempted to make operational changes in anticipation for this rise absentee ballot requests. These changes include the removal and disconnection of mail sorting machines, denials of overtimes and bans on late or extra trips to deliver mail – which all of these factors could make or break the outcome of the election. 

A representative from Baldwin’s office said she has received around 15,000 notices of concern about these changes, according to WSJ. Baldwin sent a letter to DeJoy expressing these potential issues.

“Millions of Wisconsinites – among them veterans, seniors, small business owners, rural communities, and voters – depend on USPS,” Baldwin wrote in the letter. “You must provide detailed information on your plans to comply with court orders and your plans to ensure that mail, including election mail, is delivered on-time to Wisconsinites.”

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In the letter, Baldwin said she has heard from constituents across the board about their concerns, from U.S. Postal Service workers to average citizens.

In Madison, Baldwin said a postal employee sent photographs of signs on sorting machines directing that they should not be run or operated.

“The employee alleges this was done to demonstrate in USPS data that the machines have not been disconnected,” Baldwin wrote in the letter.

Neither DeJoy nor representatives from the federal or Wisconsin USPS have responded to Baldwin’s letter, WSJ reported. Before these changes, there were 13 digital barcode sorting machines as well as two automated flat mail sorting machines, and currently, there are only 10 coded machines and one automated flat mail sorting machine running, according to the WSJ. 

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The increase in voters voting by mail makes the situation more fraught. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, only about 270,000 voters had applied for mail-in ballots in the 2016 election. Now, those numbers have jumped to about 1.5 million people voting by mail.

With these increased hurdles, local officials and Wisconsin Elections Commission guidelines suggest sending in absentee ballots with seven days of transport to guarantee it gets there in time. It is also an option to hand in ballots in at the clerk’s office or polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day.