Like many, student voters stayed away from the physical polls this election season, opting to perform their civic duty by mail due to the pandemic.
While this has put a lot of stress on the Postal Service, Goshen College’s campus post is managing their end of the deal.
“I do not think that it has caused too many large changes in Campus Post,” said student worker Gabe Hartzler. “The biggest change I have noticed is the number of students coming in asking about election mail or waiting on their absentee ballots to arrive in a timely manner in order for their votes to be counted.”
Before the election on Nov. 3, a record number of early votes, over 100 million, had already been received, according to The Washington Post. That is nearly three-fourths of the total turnout of the 2016 election. A large majority of these votes came from mail-in ballots.
A total of 90 million mail-in ballots were sent to U.S. voters.
Recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service – changes in leadership, elimination of overtime, removal of sorting machines – and the increased traffic of election mail have put the organization in the spotlight recently.
This year, the congestion of the Postal Service inspired many students to place votes early.
Junior Eric Miller requested his ballot several months ago so that he would have ample time for it to get to Goshen and then back to Cleveland, Ohio.
Goshen College’s campus post has been charged with the task of distributing these ballots to students.
“We feel a sense of responsibility to enable students to have a voice in each and every political contest for which they are eligible to cast their vote and this year is no different,” said Kim Snyder, supervisor of the campus post. “Having said that, this year does offer a heightened sense of responsibility due to current U.S. and world events.”
Despite major changes at the national level, the campus post is operating as usual.
“Policy changes implemented by Postmaster DeJoy [the highest ranking official in the USPS] have little to no effect on the preparation processes of GC mailing projects,” Snyder said.
The main difference Snyder has noticed is that many students felt it took longer than it should have for their absentee ballot to arrive.
Hartzler also feels an added sense of responsibility and wants to make sure students “know what mail they received in order to decide its importance and parameter of time for pickup.”
“At ITS Media, we only handle the receiving of such mail so I do not experience much in terms of students coming to send those ballots back.”
Once the campus post gets the ballots into the hands of voters, it is up to the voters and the Postal Service to make sure that the ballot can be counted. This means making sure that everything on the ballot is filled out correctly and then returned with enough time to get there before voting closes.
Sophomore Samuel Stoner-Eby was worried about getting his ballot back to Pennsylvania in time to be counted. He paid for overnight shipping from the post office and cited that “there are lots of court cases in Pennsylvania about how long votes will be counted.”
Caroline Robling-Griest, a sophomore, was especially concerned with the rejection of absentee ballots. She compared her signatures to be certain that they matched and then sent her ballot in early.
She is joined by Katarina Amstutz, another sophomore, who shared her concerns. Amstutz double checked everything and when asked if she was concerned about her ballot getting counted said, “Slightly, but I mailed it early so it should be fine.”
Having heard all these concerns, not all students were convinced that voting by mail was the most reliable option.
“I drove home to make sure my vote would be counted,” said sophomore Olivia Krall.
Many local students also decided they would rather risk the exposure of going to the polls in person than risk their vote being left uncounted.
Mira Yoder, a first-year from Virginia, sent her ballot back a month and a half ago.
“I feel like it’s pretty safe,” she said. “I’m only worried about it getting there on time. If I was voting two weeks before the election I’d be more worried.”