How private companies could step up to help save our election

How private companies could step up to help save our election
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“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” This unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service leaves out the possibility of both viral plague and gross mismanagement — problems we face today.

Private business firms should volunteer to help to overcome these challenges to ensure fair and free elections in November.

Many voters in many states will rely on the U.S. mails to meet the legal requirement of providing “prompt, reliable, and efficient services” and deliver their mail-in votes on time. Yet the Trump administration has signaled an intention to slow down the mail and to restrict the ability of many citizens to vote. Most recently, President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE stated that he opposed funding the Postal Service because he desires to undermine mail-in voting. Our polarized Congress is not likely to provide a solution.

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We propose that business, acting in conjunction with the states, can save our election.

Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and perhaps other companies should offer to provide voters, states, and electoral commissions with delivery services to facilitate mail-in and absentee balloting for free — or for the current normal postage rate. Because these firms offer tracking services, they may offer a further check on alleged fraud problems and satisfy demands for a record of the date sent or deposited, which some states require.

Voters, with the supervision of state authorities, could use these private services to ensure that their votes get delivered on time and counted. These companies are already operating at a very high volume, due to the surge in online purchases because of the coronavirus. While this means their systems are under stress, it also means they are making more frequent deliveries to more places, making it easier to add a service for ballot pick-up, or drop-off, and at a lower marginal cost.

Even before the pandemic, the majority of states, including all the swing states, offered mail-in ballots for any resident who wanted one. As the pandemic continued, a number of other states eased their requirements to allow those who feared infection to cast their vote by mail. State laws now give more than 75 percent of Americans a right to vote by mail in the November election.

In normal times, the Postal Service could be counted on to deliver the mail. President Trump, however, has appointed Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill Judge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes Postal service changes delayed 7 percent of nation's first-class mail: Democratic report MORE as postmaster general.DeJoy has no real experience for his job — other than the distinction of being a million-dollar contributor to the Trump campaign. DeJoy inherited a team of executives who consistently produced timely delivery of the mail, but he summarily purged postal executives and changed work rules, which slowed down delivery. Some neighborhoods in Philadelphia, for example, have gone several weeks without any mail deliveries at all.

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News from our national intelligence services that Russia once again intends to attack our national elections gives another reason to take protective measures. The states should partner with private delivery firms now to safeguard the vote. At least one state, Maryland, has already asked private companies for assistance.

Business should not remain neutral when the electoral machinery of our democracy is threatened. Free enterprise depends on free and fair elections. With the U.S. Postal Service in chaos and the fairness of our national elections at stake, business firms engaged in delivery services such as Amazon, Fed Ex, and UPS, and perhaps companies with delivery capacity such as Target and Walmart, should step up to help solve the problem. They should offer free or discounted ballot pick-up services and expanded drop-off locations, in partnership with state officials to certify the process.

Doing the right thing for our democracy will generate long-term customer goodwill for these companies, and just might save our republic.

Eric W. Orts is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. David M. Driesen is a professor at Syracuse University College of Law. George Aposporos is a consultant and former Amazon executive.