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Secretary of state, county auditor assess impact of Saturday mail cut on elections

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on Feb. 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm with No Comments »
February 12, 2013 6:24 pm

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson both gave their own assessments last week on the impact of the proposed end of home-deliveries of Saturday mail on elections mail.

Brad Shannon of The Olympian blogged that Wyman said she is disappointed by U.S. Postal Service’s announcement. But Wyman 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:

“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.”

Anderson said her office isn’t concerned about the impact of ending Saturday home-deliveries on elections.

With 27 drop boxes, Pierce County has more drop boxes by population than any county in the state, she said.

Responding to my questions via email, Anderson broke down how her office will adjust if Saturday mail delivery is eliminated:

Incoming ballots

“Under the cut scheme, the USPS wouldn’t deliver ballots to the Election Center on a Saturday.  But, they currently DON’T deliver to us.  We take a truck and pick up directly.  We have verified that this practice will continue.  The cuts only relate to delivery and collection at the doorsteps of homes and businesses.  The USPS will continue internal processing operations on Saturday. And they will continue to be open for us to come get our trays of ballots.

“Ballots placed in (a) RESIDENTIAL mailbox on Saturday (on your porch) won’t be picked up by the carrier until Monday.  It won’t get to us until Tuesday.  Tuesday is our biggest processing day.  So, those ballots will add to our volume.

“We understand that the USPS will continue to pick up mail at their BLUE BOX collectors on Saturdays.  So, no change for us.”

Outgoing ballots

“Current mailing deadline for sending out ballots is a Friday.  In Pierce County, we would elect to mail out on Thursday. There is no additional cost to us, but it adds more pressure to our already cramped timeline.

“Sometimes, voters call us to request a replacement ballot (due to spoiled, lost, or misdirected ballots).  If they call us on the Friday before the election, we send a replacement ballot by mail.  We’ll advise them that they will receive it on Monday or Tuesday.  We would also advise them that if the ballot doesn’t reach them, they should go directly to one of our six Voting Centers to vote in-person on Election Day.  Obviously, we would cancel the replacement ballot to prevent double voting.”

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