For nearly two years, election officials in Northeast Ohio have known that the state’s failure to keep pace with modernization at the U.S. Post Office could result in absentee ballots getting tossed, even if voters followed the rules perfectly. Beacon Journal interviews last week revealed that officials in at least Summit, Stark and Portage counties were aware in 2014 that a problem loomed as the U.S. Postal Service increasingly used bar codes to process mail and did not print the time and date across the postage stamp. State law continues to require an old-fashioned postmark, and as a result last year, nearly 1,800 absentee ballots were rejected in Summit and Cuyahoga counties alone. Now, with Ohioans only weeks away from voting in a highly charged presidential primary — and their governor among the contenders — the issue remains unresolved and there is no guarantee that ballots dropped in the mailbox will get counted.
Voting Blogs: US Postal Service plans to eliminate Saturday delivery – elections officials not surprised; will ramp-up voter ed | electionlineWeekly
To quote the great American orator Yogi Berra, it’s like déjà vu all over again. Just about this time almost every year in recent memory, electionlineWeekly writes a story about cuts proposed by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the possible impacts those cuts could have on the administration of elections. This year is no different after late last week USPS announced it will eliminate Saturday delivery except for packages. And elections officials aren’t thrilled, but they aren’t exactly surprised either. “I sit on the Mailers Technical Advisory Board (MTAC) to USPS so this has been discussed for quite some time now—it seemed to be more a question of “when”, not so much of “if,” said Tammy Patrick federal compliance officer, Maricopa County, Ariz. Elections. “The August timeline is preferable to waiting until 2014.” While only Oregon and Washington offer exclusive vote-by-mail system, about 20 percent of all voters in the United States cast their ballot through some form of vote-by-mail. This figure has more than tripled since 1980. This is especially true in Western states like Arizona, California, Colorado and Montana where local elections officials are working with legislatures and state election officials to make voting by mail as easy as possible.
California would allow three extra days for mail-in ballots to be accepted by elections officials under a bill approved by the state Senate. Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Anaheim says AB562 is needed because mail delivery may be delayed after the closure of five mail processing centers in California. The Senate passed the bill 28-9 Friday. It was headed to the Assembly for a final vote.
Oregon Elections Director Stephen Trout says pending cuts by the U.S. Postal Service won’t affect the state’s May primary, but that it could slow ballot delivery and returns for many Oregonians in the November election. The Postal Service is moving toward closing 252 mail processing facilities around the country, including four in Oregon, as part of its efforts to reduce huge losses. “That very likely would impact the number of days it takes for ballots” to move through the mail, Trout told the Oregon Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday.
California: Printing the elections: Mail processing’s role in the season Locals say consolidation affects campaigns, ballots | Times-Standard
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.
With Congress debating plans to shut down post offices and possibly eliminate Saturday mail delivery, some election officials are worried that bringing the U.S. Postal Service out of the red could harm election procedures — perhaps even in time for the November 2012 presidential election.
In November the Postal Service announced it lost $5.1 billion in fiscal 2011, not including the mandated $5.5 billion owed to the federal government to prefund retiree health benefit payments. For the service to return to profitability, it must cut $20 billion by 2015.
Senate legislation would protect Saturday service for the next two years, but a House bill would permit a reduction to five-day-per-week mail delivery six months after enactment. The Postal Service has said it intends to cut Saturday service unless Congress requires it to continue.