April 28, 2010
Secretary of State Kate Brown
Getting Their 2 Cents Worth at Oregon’s Expense
SALEM -- I like the U.S. Postal Service. The carriers are polite, the service is great and I use it all the time.
Oregon enjoys a truly important partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. We entrust postal workers with our democracy itself. They carried 1.8 million of our ballots last fall. I’m impressed with their enthusiasm and how honored they are to be part of the process.
But why, oh why, does the Postal Service have to once again raise rates right in the middle of our May elections?
It happened last May, it’s happening again this May and - here’s the bad part -- it’s probably going to happen every May, right in the middle of our election season.
Starting May 11, the cost of a first-class stamp jumps from 42 to 44 cents. Yes, that’s after ballots go to voters but before the May 19 election deadline.
Last year, it came during one of our busiest May elections ever, causing only minimal problems, fortunately. But I worry that uncertainties about postage will complicate the process and discourage voters.
This May, we have no statewide elections but we’ll see critical elections for dozens of school boards and other special districts in all 36 counties in addition to numerous measures for cities and other jurisdictions.
We’ll try to get the word out to every voter: Mail your ballot before May 11 and it costs 42 cents. Mail it May 11 or later, it costs 44 cents. Remember there’s no charge for dropping off ballots at one of your county’s official drop-off sites or the county elections office.
These increases may become common. The Postal Service reviews rates annually and implements increases, if needed, each May. If there’s no increase in costs there will be no increase in rates but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
It’s not that the USPS doesn’t like elections. They just started an online election to find the most popular character on the The Simpsons, helping launch a new 44-cent stamp honoring the TV family.
I sympathize when the USPS says there’s no good time of year for an increase. It’s not a coincidence that increases come only after Mother’s Day. Is it just bad luck that the increase will always fall smack dab in the middle of election season in the only state that conducts all its elections by mail?
Or can something be done? I can’t see the harm in a mid-summer or early January increase. They’re both outside the political season and wouldn’t interfere with the ever-popular New Year’s Day cards.
As Oregon’s Secretary of State, I remain committed to making our voting system as accessible as possible to all eligible voters. The Postal Service has been a vital player in our vote-by-mail system and I respect the demands on their system. But in this case, their needs don’t coincide with ours.
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