Out of the 2,393 absentee ballots which have been mailed out to voters abroad, 825 have been received by the Palau Election Commission (EC).
The last chance to receive returning absentee ballots is this Thursday, November 5th, 2020.
Due to the once-a-week flight, the next mail shipment will arrive on November 12, missing the deadline mandated by law.
All of the ballots which the EC has received so far have returned from voters in Guam and the Mariana Islands, while those mailed to farther locations such as the US mainland are awaiting return.
With over 2,000 of the sent ballots still pending, the EC has said that it is expecting to receive a large number of absentee ballots later this week.
The deadline to receive ballots is set at November 10, seven days following today’s election, a cutoff which is mandated by law. The EC has said that all those received after this date, or postmarked later than the date of the election, must be declared void.
The EC mailed out 2,253 of the ballots on October 14, while the rest were sent to voters who requested their ballots after that date.
With the window between October 14 and November 10 just over three weeks, and cargo flights limited to one every week, many government officials in Palau, including President Remengesau, have expressed concern that the time-frame may not be long enough for Palauan voters abroad to receive and return their ballots. In August, President Remengesau submitted a bill to the Senate and House of Delegates proposing to extend the deadline for ballot submission by an additional seven days, but the bill has not made it to the floor of both houses.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has said that it will be prioritizing absentee ballots over regular mail. However, in August Postmaster Timothy Sinsak said that changes which have occurred in the USPS itself could hinder punctual delivery and return of the ballots.
Since this past June, changes in the USPS have caused substantial delays in mail delivery in the United States. In response to widespread criticism that these adjustments could negatively impact mail-in votes for the US elections, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agreed to suspend changes such as reductions in overtime hours of USPS staff and mail-processing equipment until after the election.
Ms. Maria Decherong-Simer, Election Commissioner of the Palau EC, said that the primary elections did see some late absentee ballots return which had to be disqualified, but that altogether they were less than one-hundred, and were likely to have had little impact on the election results.