By: Nancy DeBlauw
No doubt the national news everyone has been hearing in regard to changes in the US Postal Service has given us all one more reason to worry about something.
In response to the Crofton Journal’s questions to Crofton’s local Post office about the continuation of normal service and the handling of mail-in ballots this fall, the Journal received these responses from Mark Inglett, United States Postal Service Strategic Communications.
Six Things to Know about the United States Postal Service
By: Mark Inglett, USPS
1. The Postal Service has more than enough capacity to handle election mail volume.
The Postal Service is ready to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives. Postmaster General DeJoy’s number one priority is to deliver election mail on-time and within the Postal Service’s well-established standards. Effective October 1, he is committed to engage standby resources in all areas of Postal Service operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.
To put it in context, the Postal Service delivers 433 million pieces of mail a day. Even if all Americans were to vote by mail this year, 330 million ballots over the course of the election would be only three-quarters of what the Postal Service delivers in one single day.
The Postal Service has more than enough capacity, including collection boxes and processing equipment, to handle all election mail this year, which is predicted to amount to less than 2% of total mail volume from mid-September to Election Day.
2. Removing blue collection boxes is a decades-old protocol.
The Postal Service’s regular review and removal of blue collection boxes began years ago. Postmaster General DeJoy has been in the job since June 2020.
Over the past 10 years, over 30,000 collection boxes have been removed from around the country, averaging 3,500 boxes per year.
This year, 1,463 collection boxes have been removed. In the last election year in 2016, nearly the same amount – 1,467 – were removed. No further boxes will be removed between now and the election.
140,837 boxes remain nationwide.
3. Sorting machines for flats and letters are only used 1/3 of the available time.
The Postal Service has always evaluated use of its equipment. Resources match volume requirements. Letter sorting and flat machines are only being used for about one-third, 32 and 38 percent, respectively, of their available machine hours. There is ample machine capacity to handle spikes in mail volume.
While he did not initiate the evaluation or removal of this equipment, Postmaster General DeJoy has given the directive to stop the removal of additional mail processing machines through the election.
4. Postmaster General DeJoy has implemented two changes since starting in June 2020.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has implemented two steps to improve efficiency since taking the reins as Postmaster General in June 2020:
Requiring trucks to run on-time and on-schedule. On-time transportation has gone up from 89% to 97% in a few weeks.
Realigning the Postal Service’s reporting structure.
All other standard operating procedures have been in effect prior to the Postmaster General joining the Postal Service.
5. The Postal Service’s coordination with state and local election officials helps ensure every ballot is delivered and counted.
Currently, certain states have deadlines for requesting and casting mail in ballots that are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards. Many of these laws do not consider the new realities of increased vote-by-mail anticipated during the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
The Postal Service’s outreach to states is standard cycle, and it began in February to educate states and voters. However, the Postal Service has asked election officials to take into account the realities of how long it takes to send and receive mail, which are the Postal Service’s delivery standards, when informing voters how to successfully participate in an election when they choose to use the mail. The Postal Service’s advice regarding Election Mail has been consistent for years. States should do their part to ensure their guidelines allow for the proper time to request and send in ballots, and to educate their voters on how to effectively utilize the mail if they decide to use the mail to vote. The Postal Service continues to partner with election officials to help ensure every ballot is delivered and counted.
6. The Postal Service’s path to financial sustainability will not be easy – but essential.
The Postal Service’s financial position is dire. Since 2007, the Postal Service has experienced nearly $80 billion in cumulative losses – with FY 2019 approaching $9 billion and 2020 closing in on $11 billion in losses despite a statutory requirement that the Postal Service be self-sustaining.
The OIG will soon report that over 4,000 people received more in overtime than they made in base salary pay in FY2019. This is more than a 400% increase from FY2014.
The Postal Regulatory Commission, founded in 2006 to regulate pricing and products, has been conducting a 10-year review for nearly 4 years. It has been nearly 3 years since the Commission concluded that the current system is not working, yet it has still not finalized a replacement system.
Postmaster General DeJoy wants to ensure a bright future and financial sustainability for the Post Service. Necessary reform efforts will begin after the election. He believes it is essential for the organization to operate efficiently and effectively, while continuing to provide services that fulfill the Postal Service’s universal service mandate and meet the current and future needs of Americans.