Thursday, February 9, 2012

Master and Servant

I met today with the postmaster at our post office.

To his credit, he is the only postmaster in my 7 years here who has ever talked with our office about issues.  It's not like he reached out to us, but he has been responsive.

(I'm just sayin' that, at the very least, if I ran a post office branch I would take a look at our largest business customers and maybe send them a piece of undamaged physical mail to introduce myself and invite them to call me with any issues.  I might even want to know what I could do to grow their business with the Postal Service.)

However, he did return my call two weeks ago and during that call, and today, he seemed empathetic.

He asked me if things were better and I said they were related to the delivery time of ballots but that I had seen more damaged pieces of mail in this past set of mail-ballot elections than I had seen with all ballots through the mail in the last seven years.

I showed him this picture, of a ballot that arrived Tuesday, a week after the election closed.  This wasn't the worst of the damaged ballots we received. 

He took me over to our station and showed me a couple more damaged ballots heading our way today.

I pointed out to him that this damage means persons' votes didn't count.  He said he understood, but I wonder.

The culprit, he said, was the Kansas City post office, where the mail is sorted mechanically.  He told me how they've had roller issues.

I stressed to him how important voting by mail was to us.  More than 20 percent of the votes in 2008 were ballots cast through the mail.  We need those kinds of numbers in 2012 to avoid long lines at the polling places.

I pointed out the sign that I photo'd earlier for my previous post and told him what a joke I thought that was.  He didn't see the humor or the disconnect.  He truly believes that the United States Post Office would eat UPS's lunch, for instance, if UPS delivered mail.

All I know is that I've never received half a box in a plastic bag from UPS.

But, I do have a local contact at our post office and I've never had that before.  So, there's that. 

However, this post office also is on the list to close very soon.  I can only describe my feeling about that as a type of Stockholm Syndrome.  As bad as things have been, using another post office would be inconvenient.

I came back to my office and was greeted with a news headline that the Postal Service lost $3.3 billion in its first quarter.  There's growing talk of a bail-out bill for the Postal Service.  I think the losses are being allowed to hemorrhage to force that discussion.

Hopefully, that discussion will include an honest evaluation of service.  We aren't even alone in the local election community, so I'm sure service issues run deep. 

Surely, large businesses are leaving because of the service.  If voters can't trust that their ballots will arrive through the mail, this is another a huge revenue stream that will be lost as well.