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Mail Ballot Security

Election officials and the U.S. Postal Service have a range of systems to secure mail voting and ensure election mail is delivered on time.

Published: June 28, 2024
View the entire Election Rumors in 2024 series

Fact: Election officials and the U.S. Postal Service have a range of systems to secure mail voting.

Election officials have multiple, overlapping safeguards to secure mail voting, including signature verification, bipartisan review of ballots, chain of custody, and tracking systems. 

The U.S. Postal Service has additional measures in place to ensure election mail is delivered securely and on time, including multiple tracking systems that follow mail ballots as they move through the postal system. 

The USPS also has its own law enforcement agency that has existed since the country’s founding. This agency helps enforce federal laws that prohibit tampering with mail. Anyone who steals mail risks up to five years in prison. 

Rumor: Mail ballots are being tampered with while in the mail.

While mail voting is not new, its increased use in recent years has led to false allegations that the practice is vulnerable to widespread fraud and tampering. 

Fact: The post office has procedures in place to deliver election mail on time, and it has a track record of doing so.

The post office has proven time and again that mail voting is secure and convenient. In the 2020 election, the post office took an average of 1.6 days to deliver a mail ballot from a voter to their election official. 97.9% of mail ballots were delivered within three days. Furthermore, all of the election mail that is sent across the entire country over a few months makes up only a fraction of all the mail USPS handles in a single day: throughout the 2020 presidential election and amidst an uptick in mail voting, the USPS delivered 135 million ballots to and from voters — only about a third of the average volume of mail the USPS delivers in a single day.

Election officials are in close contact with their local USPS offices to ensure they are informed of important election processes and timelines. The USPS also provides guidance to election officials on how to ensure election mail is delivered on time and encourages all local election officials to use the official “Election Mail” logo on all mailings so that ballot materials are visible and expedited as needed. 

In a legal settlement in 2021, the USPS reaffirmed its commitment to mail voting, pledging to “continue to prioritize monitoring and timely delivery of election mail for future elections.”

Rumor: Significant post office delays will affect election outcomes; voting by mail cannot be trusted.

Rumors that mail delivery delays indicate coordinated efforts to impact election outcomes have spread online. These allegations are fueled by discussions to cut funding to the USPS and the consolidation of the postal network’s processing facilities. The postmaster general, however, has said he will delay any major changes to mail facilities until after this year’s election.

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We worked with Swayable, a research software platform that measures how effectively media content changes opinions, to determine what messages helped voters best understand the facts.

Suggested counter-messages based on our testing:

  • Tampering with mail ballots is a federal crime punishable with jail time. These strict laws ensure voting by mail is secure.
  • The post office has multiple tracking systems to see if mail is missing and ensure voting by mail is secure.
  • The post office is required by law to prioritize monitoring and delivery of election mail to ensure it is delivered on time.

The messages above were found to be most effective in communicating the facts, though differences exist by region and demographic group. See Swayable’s dashboard to examine more detailed results, including other messages tested.