If the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed mail processing center consolidation is implemented, local officials are concerned about possible repercussions on the upcoming election season. In addition to impacting the timeliness of mail-in votes, the consolidation may also raise the cost of printing and shipping ballots, according to local officials and Times Printing Co., the company that prints local election materials.
Postal Service spokesman James Wigdel said concerns surrounding the election, and others, are being discussed. ”That’s something that we would consider prior to a decision being made about the move,” he said.
At the Dec. 15 meeting regarding the consolidation of the Eureka mail processing center with one in Medford, Ore., Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich said the delay in processing could pose a problem for election mailings, especially mail-in ballots. Seventy-two percent of the voters in Humboldt County’s last election voted by mail. Crnich said the delay could mean ballots arriving late and not being counted.
Crnich is also concerned that the consolidation will impact Times Printing Co., which prints and presorts bulk materials for mailing. The company saves the county, and its other customers, time and money by taking printed materials directly to the post office, Crnich said.
”Their process with mailing have made it possible to do it locally,” she said about printing and mailing items such as sample ballots and campaign materials.
Lane Strope, owner of Times Printing Co., said the mail processing change will not only limit the company’s ability to send out products in a timely manner, it will drive up costs. There would be a trickle-down to customers, which includes small businesses and nonprofits.
The California Secretary of State approved Times Printing Co. for the production of election ballots about three years ago. The process included going through training, installing a vault to store the ballots and investing in new equipment.
Prior to this, the county had its ballots printed and mailed through companies in Everett, Wash., and Porterville, Calif., Crnich said. Now, the $250,000 budgeted for ballot printing goes back into the Humboldt economy, she said. Additionally, about $50,000 is spent on postage.