The planned closures and consolidations of rural postal facilities throughout the country poses a particularly serious risk to states like Oregon that rely on vote-by-mail for their federal and state elections. With the presidential election approaching and the United States Post Office moving forward with plans to close many rural facilities in states like Oregon and California, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have introduced an amendment to the postal service bill being debated in the Senate to put a moratorium on the closing or consolidation of postal facilities until after the election. The amendment is cosponsored by Senators Baucus, Bennet, Sherrod Brown, and Boxer.
"We are just over seven months from a presidential election and the postal service is proposing closing facilities that could disrupt the very foundation of the electoral process in Oregon," Wyden said. "Whether or not these facilities need to be eventually for financial reasons pales in comparison to the dramatic effect it could have on whether all mail ballots are counted in time and how that could affect the results of elections. If the postal services' proposed closures occur before November, there is not enough time to ensure that the ballots of every voter in Oregon are delivered in time to be counted on Election Day. This amendment will protect the vote-by-mail system and require the postal service to study the effect these closures will have on the system before closing facilities."
"The number of Californians that cast their ballots by mail continues to grow each year," Feinstein said. "Citizens in California and across the country, particularly individuals in rural areas, servicemen and women overseas, or those with jobs that make it impossible to get to a polling location, therefore, rely on a functioning Postal Service to ensure their vote is counted. This amendment will ensure that one of the most important rights of American citizens -- the right to vote -- is protected even if the Postal Service is forced to close locations."
"Post Offices help small businesses move their goods to market and help our seniors receive their medication," Merkley said. "But in states like Oregon that vote by mail, post offices are also our voting booths. The Senate is discussing major changes to our postal service system, and no one wants those changes to harm the right to vote for those in rural areas who are affected by post office closures. This common sense amendment will ensure that any changes will not affect this coming presidential election."
"Closing postal facilities during an election season would delay ballots and prevent Montanans' voices from being heard," Tester said. "The Postal Service needs to protect our right to vote and make sure these facilities remain open to meet the needs of rural America."
Changes in postal procedures could delay the delivery and receipt of vote-by-mail ballots as well as other election related material during a point in the calendar where such risks are not necessary to take. This amendment requires the US Postal Service (USPS) to wait until after the election before closing any facilities and to study the effects on vote-by-mail and other mail-based electoral procedures such as "no excuse" absentee balloting allowing adequate time for public commenting on the results of the study. The amendment also requires the USPS to notify election officials when planning to close postal facilities in their jurisdiction.