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Wyman disappointed by possible end of mail pickup on Saturday; working to keep it from impairing vote-by-mail elections

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Feb. 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm with No Comments »
February 6, 2013 7:01 pm

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman says she is disappointed by U.S. Postal Service announcement Wednesday it would seek to end home-deliveries of mail on Saturdays to cut costs. But she said the Postal Service continues to make elections mail a high priority, and her agency will ensure sure voters are not disenfranchised in the state’s vote-by-mail elections.

In a statement put out by her office, Wyman said she understood USPS is trying to reduce its budget by $2 billion a year and that the public supports the end of Saturday mail as a way to do that:

“First, many Washington voters already are using secure drop boxes that are placed by county election officials in convenient locations. This method is increasingly popular. Many counties say that more than half of their ballots are returned by way of drop boxes, and I support expansion of this approach. With this option, of course, voters can cast their ballots as late as 8 p.m. Election Day without fear of missing the postmark deadline.

“Secondly, we will be urging voters who wish to use the Postal Service to get their ballots mailed by Friday before Election Day. It takes a little shift in mindset, but with no home mail pickup on Saturdays, it will be a good idea to use Friday as the new target date. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe also notes that customers will be able to drop off mail and buy stamps at local post offices on Saturdays, although staff service hours will be reduced at some locations.”

The New York Times reported on the postal service’s decision here and had this about postmaster Donahoe’s rationale:

Mr. Donahoe said the move to end Saturday delivery was part of a five-year plan to return the agency to profitability. Last year, the Postal Service had a net loss of $15.9 billion. Since 2010, the agency has reduced hours at many small, rural post offices and cut staff, and also announced plans to reduce the number of its mail processing plants.

But post office officials say the cuts and staff reductions are not enough.

The agency has long sought Congressional approval to end mail delivery on Saturdays. But Congress, which continues to work on legislation to overhaul the agency, has resisted. Under a Congressional mandate that has been in place since 1981, the Postal Service is required to deliver mail six days a week. But post office officials argue that since the government is operating under a stopgap budget measure, known as a continuing resolution, that mandate does not apply, giving them the authority to make the changes without Congressional approval.

Jason Mercier, a Washington Policy Center analyst who is advocating for an 8 p.m. Election Day deadline for all ballots to be received by county auditors, suggested the postal service decision could help that cause. That is because with Wyman recommending the use of drop boxes or early mailing of ballots, it “will help move voters to the mindset needed for ballots being due on Election Day.’’

The Legislature is looking at many elections-related bills. But House Government Operations and Elections Committee chair Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, has said an Election-Day deadline for ballots is not among the bills he plans to move out of committee. He did, however, take testimony Wednesday on House Bill 1359, which allows voter registration up to Election Day.

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