Viewpoint: Absentee ballots AND a drop box

By Richard Baldarelli 

There is widespread concern that voters in November will have to face the difficult decision of risking exposure to the coronavirus while waiting in line to vote in person, or risking disenfranchisement while waiting for their mail-in ballots to arrive in time to be counted. Broad availability of ballot drop boxes is an important alternative. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent changes to make the U.S. Postal Service “run more efficiently” have had quite the opposite effect. Removing highspeed mail sorting machines while limiting postal worker overtime and cutting back on late deliveries have caused a mail processing bottleneck resulting in impactful delivery delays, just in time for a national election during a global pandemic. 

Is Mr. DeJoy an agent of the Trump administration’s openly stated goal to impede mail-in voting? In a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Aug. 21, the Postmaster General insisted his actions were not motivated by suggestions from the President, yet in that same hearing, when asked repeatedly if he plans to bring back any of the sorting machines that have been removed since he took the helm, he also insisted that these machines “are not needed,” and will not be returned. Nor did he commit to restoring previous overtime levels to postal workers. A House bill passed the very next day to allot $25 billion to the Postal Service and suspend the operational changes that have encumbered mail delivery is not likely to be taken up for a vote in the Senate, amplifying uncertainty in Postal Service reliability for handling mail-in ballots. Meanwhile, prescription meds, retirement and unemployment checks, bill payments and deceased baby chicks continue their lingering progression to their destinations through the mail. 

Don’t let our democracy expire (next to the baby chicks) as your mail-in ballot sits in a postal logjam this November. Assure that your town has a ballot drop box available in the run up to Election Day. As of this writing, a check with all towns on MDI revealed that only Bar Harbor has definitive plans to provide a secure ballot drop box in the Town Hall building. The towns of Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Tremont have no secure ballot drop boxes currently, but are considering the need. 

What you can do: 1.) Contact your town office to insist that they prioritize ballot drop box availability in your town2.) Contact Governor Mills to support her administration’s plan to equip every town in Maine with adequate ballot drop boxes3.) If you plan to vote by mail, request your absentee ballot immediately and plan to send it in no later than Tuesday, Oct. 13, three weeks before the election (a local town clerk’s recommendation)4.) Make sure you sign your absentee ballot5.) Update the signature associated with your voter registration form (if you haven’t updated it in a decade or so). Election officials match the signature on your mail-in ballot with the signature they have on file from your voter registration form. If it doesn’t match (in their opinion), your ballot will be rejected, and 6.) Track the progress of your ballot (if you ordered your ballot online, you will receive email confirmation, and you can check the status of your ballot request by contacting your town clerk). Make sure your ballot was received and was not rejected due to lack of a signature or a mismatched signature. 

Your vote counts. Now more than ever, make sure it gets counted. 

Useful links: Voter Registration Data, Election Data and Online Forms Voting Guide League of Women Voters of Maine Absentee Voting Guide 


Richard Baldarelli is a resident of Bar Harbor. 

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