Editor’s note: This commentary is by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Fair and free elections are the cornerstone of our democracy.
Our right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution and is one many Americans have fought tirelessly for and strive to protect. A key to preserving this right is a reliance on dependable mail delivery.
It has been widely reported the United States Postal Service (USPS) may run out of money by June if Congress does not provide adequate stimulus funds. This would be unacceptable.
As the secretaries of state and chief elections officials for Washington and Vermont, it is our responsibility to ensure every eligible voter can exercise their right to cast a ballot, and have their voice heard in our democratic process.
We conduct elections differently in our respective states. Vermont’s 45-day no-excuse early/absentee ballot request system allows any voter to request a ballot by mail. In Washington state, a ballot is proactively mailed to every registered voter.
Despite the differences across states — from those who conduct elections entirely by mail to those who have small absentee-voting populations — we all rely on the USPS to fulfill key election processes.
If the Postal Service ceases to exist, our elections will be in jeopardy. While mid-election year is no time for changes to the dependability of this vital service, it is especially true during a year in which our country is experiencing a pandemic and health crisis. Due to COVID-19 concerns, many states are looking for alternative voting options, which will increase the necessity of voting by mail for so many Americans.
This issue is bigger than any one election, however. It’s about preserving the integrity of our democratic process. If the mail delivery system on which all election officials rely diminishes, democracy will suffer. Our fair and free elections must prevail through this crisis, and the Postal Service is essential to ensuring that it does.
This is not a political or partisan issue – voters in red and blue states depend on the Postal Service to participate in our democracy. That’s why we’re calling upon Congress to provide the funding necessary to ensure reliable, dependable delivery of mail through the USPS. Our democracy relies on this critical institution, and secretaries of state need Congress to do its part to ensure the foundation of our elections does not crumble.
Secretaries of state, election officials, and other leaders must band together to instill confidence in our voters, ensuring our elections are accessible and secure. The moment one of these standards diminishes — in this case, access to the ballot — we jeopardize one of the pillars of our democracy: free and fair elections.
Too much is at stake if Congress does not act.