USPS ready to implement ‘extraordinary measures’ delivering ballots for 2022 midterm elections

The Postal Service says it's ready to deliver mail-in ballots and election mail ahead of Election Day this November.

The Postal Service, building on the lessons learned from its standout role in the 2020 presidential election, says it’s ready to deliver mail-in ballots and election mail ahead of Election Day this November.

USPS already delivered more than 51 million ballots to and from voters during this year’s primary election season. On average, it took USPS less than two days to deliver ballots to and from voters, and 99.33% of ballots were delivered from voters to election officials within three days.

USPS in July also created a permanent division to handle election mail issues.

Adrienne Marshall, USPS executive director of election and government mail services, said the agency will rely on “long-standing, proven practices” to deliver ballots and election mail ahead of November’s election.

Those include “extraordinary measures” local USPS managers are authorized to use, starting Oct. 24. to expedite the delivery of ballots from voters to election officials.

Those extraordinary measures include extra deliveries and collections, arranging special pickups, expanded hours at processing facilities and bypassing some standard mail processing procedures to fast-track ballots to election officials.

While USPS officials say these extraordinary measures are part of its long-established practices in handling mail-in ballots, the agency, as part of the settlement in an election mail lawsuit last year, agreed to keep these measures in place for federal elections through at least 2028.

Marshall said USPS employees are being trained on how to identify and handle ballots and that the agency will conduct daily “all clear” checks of local processing and delivery facilities.

USPS employees are also being trained on how to identify and handle ballots. Local processing and delivery facilities. will conduct daily “all clear” checks for unprocessed ballots.

USPS delivered a 2022 election mail kit to more than 8,000 election officials in March, and issued a guidance letter to the chief election officials in each state in July, with recommendations to ensure the efficient and timely handling of election mail.

A joint task force between postal unions and management associations also oversees the delivery of ballots. USPS through this task force has named ballot monitors and ballot ambassadors.

Marshall said these monitors and ambassadors “champion election mail awareness and ensure strong communications amongst our employees to move election mail through the postal network.”

USPS Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Steve Monteith said the establishment of a permanent election mail task force reflects the recent growth in election mail, as well as the number of jurisdictions using mail-in ballots.

“Now that we have this focused part of the organization, we’ll be able to focus year-round on election mail issues,” Monteith said.

USPS is also partnering with the State Department, the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Military Postal Service Agency to ensure U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and other Americans living abroad have to opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections.

USPS faces an upcoming overhaul of its nationwide delivery network, as well as a recent uptick in mail theft and robberies of mail carriers, but agency executives said neither of those would hamper its readiness for the 2022 midterm elections.

USPS in September identified more than 200 post offices and other facilities it plans to consolidate into large, regional hubs. But Monteith said the agency still remains in the planning phase of this work, and once implemented, would improve delivery service.

“Basically, our network modernization planning will ultimately result in improved service for years to come for our employees. We’re currently very much in the planning stages. Not a lot of changes, at this point, related to our network modernization efforts,” Monteith said. “However, the changes really will have no bearing on our commitment to fulfilling our role in the electoral process, and will not result in any issues, as we move forward to the election. Ultimately, we believe it will help us improve reliability for all of our customers, including election officials and voters.”

The Postal Inspection Service, meanwhile, is tasked with protecting USPS employees and facilities.

Eric Shen, the inspector in charge for the USPIS  Criminal Investigations Group, said the agency “stands ready to defend against any attempts to disrupt the U.S. mail” ahead of next month’s elections.

Lawmakers, however, remain concerned about mail theft and the safety of USPS personnel amid a spike in postal crime. Frank Albergo, national president of the Postal Police Officers Association told members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee last month that the Postal Inspection Service, about two years ago, narrowed the postal police force’s authority, restricting it to investigating only crimes committed on postal property.

While lawmakers have called on USPS to extend the jurisdiction of postal police to include blue collection boxes and protection of letter carriers on their routes, Shen said the jurisdiction of postal police officers is restricted to USPS facilities.

“That is their main function and their main role in day-to-day activities. But especially during elections, they’re definitely heightened in their senses as far as what we need to do for elections,” Shen said.

Postal Inspectors are also members of the Department of Justice’s election threats task force, which identifies issues that might interfere with the security of election mail.

“As far as every mail theft complaint, our agency does address every single one of them and we will try and facilitate that, especially if there’s a ballot involved. We will work with our local elections offices there to make sure, if there is a ballot missing, that person will get one to be able to utilize,” Shen said.

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