Major mail delivery delays raise concerns about voting in the 2024 elections

Steve HutkinsNews

NBC News: In Virginia, hundreds of veterans had their colon cancer screening tests invalidated after the results took months to arrive by mail. An Atlanta college student missed an academic trip to Ghana when their passport with two-day shipping took a month to show up. A bride in Texas had to rent a dress for her wedding after hers spent weeks stuck in a Houston postal facility.

Across the country, residents and businesses have been reporting widespread slowdowns in mail and package delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. The delays have become so persistent that members of Congress have gotten involved, urging the Postal Service to drastically correct course and raising concern about what impact the disruptions could have on mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

The delays appear to largely stem from a new system the Postal Service began rolling out last fall that will eventually funnel all the nation’s letters and packages through a consolidated network of 60 regional distribution centers — similar to the airlines’ hub-and-spoke model. The change is part of a wider $40 billion, 10-year overhaul of the network that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said will reduce costs, improve reliability and make the Postal Service more competitive. But in some instances, the plan has done the opposite, according to the Office of the Inspector General for the Postal Service, members of Congress and Postal Service advocacy groups.

“It’s just a dumpster fire right now,” said Leo Raymond, a former Postal Service manager and managing director of Mailers Hub, an industry group for direct mail companies. He said his members have had everything from customer bills to strategically timed marketing material caught up in the delays. “If you’re a business, you’re going to be discouraged from using the mail because you want your stuff to actually get there.”

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In Atlanta, residents have experienced similar delays since a new regional distribution center opened there in late February. After the facility opened, on-time delivery service in the region went from 60%-70%, which was already below average, to as low as 20%, according to Raymond. Local news organizations reported on hundreds of complaints from residents and long lines of trucks backed up at the facility waiting to drop off and pick up mail.

“Atlanta has been a complete house on fire,” said Raymond.

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In prior elections, the Postal Service has used special procedures to ensure mail-in ballots are promptly delivered. But any disruptions near the election, even relatively isolated ones, could have wide-ranging implications.

“Hopefully this won’t turn into a problem,” said Steve Hutkins, who runs the website Save the Post Office. “But if the election is really close and a couple of key states have mail ballot issues, it could be a nightmare.”

Read more: Major mail delivery delays raise concerns about voting in the 2024 elections