Online post questioning voting by mail is missing context

The claim: USPS advises against sending cash in the mail because it isn’t secure. What about mail-in ballots? With the U.S. Postal Service embroiled in political turmoil, some have begun to question whether it is capable of facilitating a large-scale vote-by-mail election. “The Post Office advises never send cash in the […]

The claim: USPS advises against sending cash in the mail because it isn’t secure. What about mail-in ballots?

With the U.S. Postal Service embroiled in political turmoil, some have begun to question whether it is capable of facilitating a large-scale vote-by-mail election.

“The Post Office advises never send cash in the mail because it’s not secure. Vote by mail?” said Kriger Nordmann in his viral Facebook post.

In response to USA TODAY’s request for comment, Nordmann pointed to his comments on the post.

“If you want to vote for ‘ol creepy Uncle Joe by mail, then request an absentee ballot,” one of his comments reads. “Me personally, I’d wade through a crowd of symptomatic coronavirus-infected BLM members wearing a MAGA hat, whistling ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to cast my vote in person.”

More: Empty mailboxes, missed rent: US Postal Service’s struggles have real-world impacts

USPS doesn’t prohibit sending cash but advises other options

The Postal Service has not stated people should “never” send cash in the mail. However, it did suggest to USA TODAY and on its website that there are better ways to transport money via mail.

“Regarding sending cash in the mail, no, we do not prohibit it and continue to advise customers about the options they have,” USPS spokesperson Kim Frum told USA TODAY. “It is advisable to send money via a personal or certified check or money order, as these are traceable, and a stop payment can be put on a check if it doesn’t arrive at its destination.”

The Postal Service goes into further detail on its website, noting that money orders are a “safe alternative” to cash and personal checks because of the reasons Frum noted. The status of money orders purchased from USPS can be tracked using a serial number, post office number and the issued amount of the order.

Fact check: A cashless society isn’t imminent and wouldn’t mean total end of cash

Cash, on the other hand, is generally untraceable. Still, if a person decides to mail cash, it can be insured. For registered mail — the Postal Service’s most secure mail service, which is protected by “safes, cages, sealed containers, locks and keys” — cash can be insured up to $50,000, Frum said. Cash sent any other way only allows insurance coverage up to $15. Of course, there are ways in which sending cash through the mail is illegal, such as if the purpose is to evade taxes or launder money.

Nordmann pointed to a 2018 statement made by USPS spokesman Earl Musick regarding the safety of sending cash through the mail.

“Please don’t mail cash,” Musick told Ohio’s WTOL-TV 11. “That’s just dangerous in anything you do. As I said, don’t leave your mail out too long. Mail checks or money orders, you can get that back.”

When asked whether that specific statement reflects USPS’ current view on sending cash via mail, Frum referred to her statement given above.

Fact check: Wisconsin mailbox photo is not tied to ‘voter suppression’

Postal Service maintains that sending election mail is safe

The Facebook post insinuates that because USPS suggests alternatives to sending cash through the mail that ballots likely aren’t safe either. The conflation of the two scenarios is misleading.

“The U.S. Mail remains a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is proud to serve as a critical component of our nation’s democratic process,” Frum said.

She added that all U.S. mail is protected by over 200 federal laws, enforced by the United States Postal Inspection Service, one of the nation’s oldest law enforcement agencies. The Inspection Service also has a number of security programs that work to ensure the integrity of election mail specifically, she said.

“Inspection Service has a proud history of identifying, arresting, and assisting in the prosecution of criminals who use the nation’s postal system to defraud, endanger or threaten Americans,” Frum said.

Obstruction of mail could result in a fine or jail time for up to a year.

More: President Trump’s vote-by-mail ballot received by elections office in Florida

Unlike cash, ballots can be traced, using bar codes or tracking numbers. There are a number of other ways voter fraud is prevented throughout the vote-by-mail process, like the use of secure dropoff locations and post-election audits.

Fact check: Mailing ballots to dead people not leading to voter fraud, experts and studies say

The Facebook user Nordmann feared political biases of individual postal workers might make a difference in the security of the election, pointing to an instance in Florida where primary election ballots were marked “R” for Republican and “D” for Democrat.

But those markings in this instance are specific to Palm Beach County in Florida, and more importantly, specific to its primary election, as found in a USA TODAY fact-check.

More: Donald Trump keeps blasting ‘universal’ mail voting. But few states are planning that in November

Our rating: Missing context

We rate the claim that the U.S. Postal Service advises against sending cash in the mail because it isn’t secure – and thus, voting by mail is not safe, too – as MISSING CONTEXT because the post presents a conclusion not supported by the underlying facts.

USPS has not explicitly said it advises to “never” send cash by mail, though it is advisable to use money orders instead because they can be traced. To conclude that this makes voting by mail unsafe, though, is misleading. There are a number of precautions in place to ensure the security of voting by mail, including the tracking of ballots.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, Aug., 22, House passes an additional $25 billion for Postal Service as Trump tweets opposition

  • USA TODAY, Aug. 19, USPS head has no plans to replace sorting machines or reverse other Postal Service changes, Pelosi says

  • USPS spokesperson Kim Frum

  • USPS, Sending Money Orders

  • USPS, Check Money Order Status

  • WTOL 11, Dec. 11, 2018, Call 11 for Action: Don’t send cash in the mail this holiday season, USPS says

  • United States Postal Inspection Service, Sept. 2006, A Law Enforcement Guide to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service

  • USPS, Election Mail

  • Brennan Center for Justice, April 10, The False Narrative of Vote-by-Mail Fraud

  • Fox 29 WFLX.com, Aug. 17, ‘R’ and ‘D’ labeling on mail-in ballots

  • WUSA 9, Aug. 18, VERIFY: Yes, viral video showing ballot envelopes labeled with ‘R’ or ‘D’ for party is real, but here’s important context

  • United States Postal Inspection Service, Mail Security

  • USA TODAY, July 14, Fact check: Mailing ballots to dead people not leading to voter fraud, experts and studies say 

  • USA  TODAY, Aug. 22,  Fact check: Party ID is noted on Florida mail-in envelopes only for primary voting

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Online post about voting by mail is missing context

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