This afternoon, the National Association of Letter Carriers will be hitting the streets (the streets identified here in a delightful chart) to defend the post office. There’s another nationwide demonstration called Occupy the Post Office organized by Community and Postal Workers United set for April 17. There’s reason to demonstrate. Currently, 223 post office processing centers nationwide are slated to close starting this summer, and 14 of those are in California — including the one in Petaluma, which means all North Bay mail will be headed to the Oakland processing center. Petaluma is 47.5 miles away from Oakland, and not all the Petaluma mail clerks will be financially fit enough to travel the distance. 229 positions will be lost, and mail in the Oakland processing center could pile up. So, that’s a problem. Not just for citizens, or for mail carriers, but for the entire vote-by-mail system. Voters can no longer expect their ballots to arrive overnight once the consolidations take place — or, worse, they’lll expect their ballot to arrive overnight, and then it won’t.
In the November 2008 presidential election, 41.6% of Californians who voted cast their ballots by mail, compared to 5% in 2000. In Alameda County in 2010, vote-by-mail turnout was more than twice as high as that at the polls. Because vote-by-mail turnout is higher than that of traditional voting, many political campaigns (including, notably,Obama’s) are increasingly pushing permanent absenteeism — and for elderly, infirm, rural, or military voters, it may be the only option.