USPS Quietly Added Rule Prohibiting Workers From Signing Mail-In Ballots As Witnesses

Protest material that resemble mail-in election ballots are seen as demonstrators gather on Kalorama Park to protest President Donald Trump donor and current U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy on August 15, 2020 in... Protest material that resemble mail-in election ballots are seen as demonstrators gather on Kalorama Park to protest President Donald Trump donor and current U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy on August 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The U.S. Postal Service enacted a rule this summer banning its clerks from signing mail-in ballots as witnesses while on duty, a restriction that can prevent the ballots from being counted.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Tuesday that Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai had sent the USPS a letter last Thursday seeking an explanation for complaints that postal workers in her state had been telling voters they were not allowed to sign the ballots.

“This came as surprise to the state because we know in past elections postal officials have served as witnesses,” Fenumiai wrote. “Rural Alaska relies heavily on postal officials as they are often sometimes the only option for a witness.”

In fact, Alaska’s instructions on sending in ballots state that a postal worker counts as an “authorized official” who can sign on as a voter’s witnesses.

Per the Anchorage Daily News, USPS Principal Product Management Specialist Daniel Bentley sent the Alaska official a reply confirming the new restriction.

“Postal Employees are prohibited from serving as witnesses in their official capacity while on duty, due in part to the potential operational impacts,” Bentley wrote. “The Postal Service does not prohibit an employee from serving as a witness in their personal capacity off-duty, if they so choose.”

Alaska is one of several states that require people who vote by mail to have their ballots signed by a witness, otherwise the ballot will not be considered valid. Virginia, a key swing state, has the same requirement, though a judge allowed in May Virginia to waive the policy for voters concerned for their safety in the state’s primary elections.

The USPS did not respond to TPM’s request for comment at the time of writing.

The revelation comes as the USPS suffers a crisis of delays caused by General Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s controversial changes to the agency’s procedural policies. Under fire from lawmakers who accuse him of deliberately sabotaging the USPS on behalf of President Donald Trump, DeJoy announced on Tuesday that he was suspending his proposed changes until after the November elections.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: