The Postal Service’s announcement on March 7 [PDF] that it would suspend consolidation of mail processing and distribution centers during the “election mailing season” seems to have raised more questions than it answered. Lost in much of the reporting on the announcement is this pertinent quote from the USPS press release:
“Therefore, most closures or consolidations would have to take place starting after May 15, 2012, and be completed by August 31, 2012.”
It appears that the Postal Service intends to implement as many consolidations as possible between May 15 and Aug. 31; take a break, and resume consolidations early in 2013.
But the USPS refuses to provide any information about when it plans to close which facilities. The Postal Service announced plans to study approximately half of the nation’s mail processing facilities for consolidation in September. In December, in response to pressure from members of Congress, the USPS agreed to a moratorium until May 15, 2012.
In February, the postal officials approved the consolidation of 223 facilities, and notified the APWU that they plan to begin implementing the consolidations as soon as the moratorium ends.
The March 7 announcement follows complaints from officials in several states that drastic cuts to the mail processing network could compromise elections that rely heavily on mail-in ballots. Some members of Congress asked for a delay in postal closings until after the November elections.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that officials in California and Arizona said that closing processing centers could delay the return of mail ballots beyond the deadline. Election officials in Ohio complained to the Postmaster General about the security of ballots sent to mail processing facilities across state lines. And in Oregon, whose residents vote by mail exclusively, the state registrar said voters in rural areas where post offices are scheduled to close would have nowhere to drop off ballots.
One in five voters cast ballots by mail in 2010, according the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
“The Postal Service should be encouraging and supporting mail balloting,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said. “It represents an opportunity for growth.
“Instead, USPS consolidation plans could compromise elections in some states – in addition to jeopardizing the stability of the Postal Service itself,” he said.
Will It Help?
Will the suspension of consolidations during the “election mailing season” solve the problems reported by state election officials? That’s unclear.
Eleven primaries are scheduled between May 15 and the end of June, when consolidations would take place under the Postal Service’s current plan.