The US Postal Service, in an effort to deal with major budget shortfalls, is planning to close many processing centers on May 15, less than a month before California’s June fifth primary election and of course before the November sixth presidential election.
The closures could potentially disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters in California, and even more across the country. It’s something of a buzzkill considering other recent reforms such as top-two primaries and new redistricting maps promise expanded opportunity for voters to make their voices heard.
“That is the worst time to be closing down facilities and slowing the mail,” said Gail Pellerin, Santa Cruz County Clerk and president of the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials.
“We have millions of voters voting by mail, and if the US Postal Service is going to be changing their turnaround time from 1-3 days to 3-5 days, or even 7 days in some cases, that’s going to have a huge detrimental effect to voters having their votes count.”
Pellerin told the CA Fwd Radio Show [full show can be heard above] that postmarks won’t work because not every ballot gets a postmark. One solution is for election officials to collect ballots at the source, also known as ballot trapping.
“We’re there at the US Postal Service facility on election night picking up ballots that come in,” she said. If the US Postal Service does close their facilities, “we could start trapping them 5-8 days before the election, be there to collect them daily.”
But, ultimately, the best solution would be to keep post offices open until after the elections take place. “We have been working very closely with the United States Postal Service … lobbying heavily for them to just wait – don’t do any closures in 2012.”
The issue has the potential to have such a major impact on this year’s elections, that the California legislature has scheduled a joint hearing on the issue for Tuesday, March 13 in Sacramento.
Gina Baleria is Communications Manager at CA Fwd.