[Image courtesy of vocus]
In case it isn't obvious, I'm a big fan of Brian Newby's ElectionDiary. I like it because it's jam-packed with the kind of detail election geeks love, but I also enjoy seeing Brian tee off on topics that I know are a source of frustration many election officials nationwide. One of his favorite targets is the U.S. Postal Service, with whom he has had an up-and-down (but mostly down) relationship over the years.
That's why it was striking to see a real sense of optimism in Brian's latest post, entitled "Postal End-Run":
If you've been reading lately, it would be hard not to notice my disdain for our local post office, and this post happily points out that we may have an end-run around that.
First, let me reinforce that we found a guy in Kansas City who was our postal advocate. He's been awesome, helped us out during the snowstorm election in February, and then, he vanished.
I was worried that he took another job. I called him. I sent him emails. I lit candles at church.
All, to no avail.
He emerged about 6 weeks ago and, for whatever reason, hadn't received my S.O.S. He was back in the game, though, he said, and he has definitely jumped in.
First, he talked with our old postmaster, now in Las Vegas. He also talked with our current post minor (I'm not sure if he is the postmaster or just the guy in charge) at our post office. This is the guy who told us that because we had an employee engaged to our old postal carrier (who retired 2 years ago) that we got better service than we should have. [As the kids say, "SMH" - DMCj]
Our advocate saw through this attitude, thankfully, and then after a strong wag of the finger to the post minor, called me to let me know he was on it.
At the same time, we began exploring ways to bypass the Olathe Post Office on the way out. We have hooked up with Pitney Bowes in downtown Kansas City. This operation is run by a former Sprint employee (as am I) and a Johnson County voter excited to be in the mix.
Wow, someone supporting our office excited to do so. Wow, again. Wow, again and again.
I bashfully asked if she, by chance, sure she didn't, just asking, hope she didn't mind, but just wondered--if she knew our advocate at the United States Postal Service.
She did! They're buds. And, they have a meeting this week to talk about the Overland Park mail ballot election that is forthcoming.
What a turn of events--there's even more to the positive news, and we're very optimistic. I toured the facility and took pictures for the blog, but in my excitement the photos were too jumbly to post.
We still have to deal with the post office on the way back in, as ballots are delivered. But this takes care of a huge ordeal sending them.
Still, what a turn, all the way to an end run. We'll know soon how it works, but right now, the best way to be a satisfied customer is to be a non-customer. The true winner, hopefully, will be Overland Park.
This post is noteworthy for two big reasons. First, it suggests that in the right circumstances, pessimism about service at the Postal Service may be misplaced. Second (and this is the big one) - it probably takes the kind of full-court press in which Brian has engaged to create those "right circumstances."
As more and more voters use the mail for elections - not just to receive and return ballots but also (in some states) voter guides, sample ballots and other materials - election officials are going to have to find ways to make the postal process work.
Right now, it looks like it takes the combination of dogged persistence and no small amount of luck that Newby has applied in Overland Park - wouldn't it be great if voters across the nation could get the same service without requiring super-heroic efforts?
If that happened, I'm guessing many more election officials would be as giddy as Brian's latest post suggests he is today.