Senator said consolidating mail processing facilities could delay absentee ballots
April 13, 2012
(MISSOULA, Mont.) – In response to a request by Senator Jon Tester, the Postal Service will not close the Butte, Helena, Kalispell or Wolf Point mail processing facilities in Montana during the state’s upcoming primary election season.
Tester last month told the head of the Postal Service that closing mail sorting facilities could prevent absentee ballots from reaching polling locations by Election Day. The Postal Service previously agreed to suspend closures until at least May 15 and again during the general election season this fall. Tester said the closure moratorium should include this year’s primary elections in Montana.
Montana holds its Primary Election on June 5.
Tester, who led the charge to successfully convince the Postal Service to change course and keep Missoula’s processing facility open, said that the Postal Service’s decision is a step in the right direction, but that the fight to keep the mail processing centers would continue.
“Closing mail processing facilities during an election season would delay ballots and prevent Montanans’ voices from being heard,” Tester said. “This decision is welcome news, but we have more work to do to make sure these facilities remain open to meet the needs of rural America.”
Forty-seven percent of Montana voters cast absentee ballots in 2010, a threefold increase from 2000.
There are nearly 635,000 registered voters in Montana. To be accepted, Montanans’ absentee ballots must be returned to county election offices by the time polls close on Election Day. Ballots postmarked on Election Day, but not received, are not accepted.
“The U.S. Postal Service plays a valuable role in helping to facilitate fair and well run elections in Montana,” Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch
said. “An untimely change to the mail processing system could potentially impact voter participation, voter confidence, and the dissemination of important election-related materials.”
The Postal Service’s response to Tester also says that the closure of mail processing facilities nationwide will depend on the organization reducing the current requirement to deliver mail in 1-3 days to 2-3 days.
Tester vowed to continue working on legislation that would preserve the faster delivery standards – something the Postal Service says would require most processing facilities to be kept open nationwide.
The Senate may begin considering postal reform legislation next week.