Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Postal Death Spiral (Continued)

It's no secret that I'm unhappy with the service our office gets from the post office.

It's heightened anytime we have a mail-ballot election. 

During one-such election last year, as ballots were coming back sawed in half, the postmaster in Olathe agreed to meet with me.

I'd tried for years to get some sort of communication going.  Finally, I had it.

Sadly, he's no longer there.

For a while, we had a local Kansas City contact "here for you," following a dustup made on our behalf by Tammy Patrick, who is on the Election Center Postal Task Force (and, congratulations to her--also on the new Presidential Voting Commission named this week).

But, he's gone dark as well.

This past Tuesday, we took our 80,000+ ballots to the post office during their "business business hours," noon to 4 (!), and left feeling lucky that the ballots would be mailed because we made the tremendous blunder of not numbering our trays.

Today, expecting returned ballots in the mail, we got none.  Not one.

How odd.  Many people turn them around the day they get them and they come back postage-paid.  Mailed Tuesday, people started calling us Wednesday with questions so we know they were delivered, but not back in the Friday mail.

We got a call in the early afternoon that about 3,000 were at the post office. 


Joe Biden frequently gets mail at our office, but on
Friday, no ballots came.
So they were there, just not counted--now to be delivered a day later (in this case, with a holiday weekend, four days later) than they should have been.

Mail-ballots have to be returned by noon on election day.  In this case, election day is June 10.  If today were June 10, that means 3,000 voters' ballots would not have counted.

Count me as outraged.

On election day we call the post office to see if any ballots are there and we pick them up.  Who knows what they would have said today?  We would have called at the same time our delivery came.

We have some insight into what the answer would have been:

On our infamous blizzard election snow day in February, we called on election day, realizing mail would not be delivered, to see if there were ballots to go get.  We were told they didn't have any ballots.  I didn't believe them.

So, I contacted our "there for you," guy (no longer, it appears there for us) and about a half hour later, we got a call from the post office that they, indeed, had ballots.  Again, had we not escalated, and gotten lucky it appears, voters would had their ballots not counted.

It's another example of the War on Voting that we're facing.  The post office considers cancelling Saturday delivery, raises postage, and reduces service levels.  We'd like to encourage people to vote by mail but it's hard to do that with a straight face.

Compound that with schools as polling place issues and limited options for advance voting sites, and the environment is making it hard for voters.

Again, I'm not necessarily an advocate FOR Internet voting, but the mail and other external factors are doing a pretty good job of clearing the fog around the Internet voting possibility.  At some point, it likely will be an option that will look better and better just because traditional methods look worse and worse.

It's hard to fathom that the postal service doesn't see this.  The story line about the need to eliminate Saturday delivery is that fewer items are mailed because of the Internet.  Their own service levels likely are pushing a huge customer (voters are the customer, we are the conduit) to the Internet.