Trust the USPS With the Next Election?

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m playing postman, I thought a couple of weeks ago as I delivered mail to four of my neighbors.

That was the day that every single envelope in my mailbox was addressed to someone else. It was a record. Usually there are no more than one or two wayward envelopes.

Our regular mail carrier was on vacation, I learned, as if that excuses such incompetence.

But where’s MY mail, I wondered later when no one brought so much as one of those ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons.

Everyone has at least one postal horror story. Here’s another one of mine:

Several years ago my niece in Greensboro, N.C., had a baby. It was our family’s first grandchild and much excitement ensued. I found a beautiful blanket for that cherub, wrapped it, addressed it and sent it Priority Mail. You know, so it would arrive promptly.

The distance between Virginia Beach and Greensboro is 253 miles. A trip I can make in 4 1/2 hours.

The package was mailed on March 25. It arrived on July 11.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the column I wrote at the time.

I’m not going to beat up on the US Postal Service today. Not excessively, anyway. That quasi-governmental agency has enough problems. But it’s worth noting that the service lost $8.8 billion last year and is in deep trouble this year, as it prepares to close post offices and raise rates to try to stop the hemorrhaging.

In April, Politico had a comprehensive piece outlining the constellation of troubles plaguing the one service Americans relied upon during the early days of the pandemic. Congress created a thorny problem when it mandated a retirement health program for former USPS employees that’s bankrupting the service.

Neither political party seems particularly interested in fixing the USPS.

Yet every single one of us who has gotten misdelivered mail — which I venture to say is 100% of Americans — or who has witnessed extraordinary delays and lost letters should gulp when politicians start yapping about turning over the next election to this dysfunctional agency.

If that isn’t bad enough, cast your eyes north to New York where two June 23rd congressional primary races were undecided until yesterday, largely because the postal service was swamped with ballots.

In a New York Times piece headlined, “Why the Botched NYC Primary Has Become The November Nightmare: Nearly six weeks later, two congressional races remain undecided, and officials are trading blame over the mishandling of tens of thousands of mail-in ballots,” the paper showed how easily the postal service can be paralyzed by an influx of ballots.

“This election is a canary in the coal mine,” said Suraj Patel, a Democrat running for Congress in a district that includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, who has filed a federal lawsuit over the primary.

Mr. Patel trails the incumbent, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, by some 3,700 votes, though more than 12,000 ballots have been disqualified, including about 1,200 that were missing postmarks, he said.

Missing postmarks, disqualified ballots and an overwhelmed postal service during a PRIMARY ought to give all of us pause. Imagine what would happen during a presidential election conducted by mail.

This NYC canary died, yet some are still suggesting universal mail-in balloting to help voters who bravely enter supermarkets and Home Depot but have a crippling fear of contracting COVID-19 at their polling places.

Those who suggest that mail-in voting is the only alternative to in-person balloting lack imagination. There are a multitude of measures states can take NOW to get ready for November.

Double the number of polling places, for instance. Allow drive-up voting at suburban precincts.

There’s always good old-fashioned absentee ballots, which must be requested so they’re rarely mailed to dead people, unlike universal mail-in balloting where everyone on the rolls gets a vote.

Even if they’re residing in a cemetery.

This column was republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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