Mr. Patrick R. Donahoe
Postmaster General & Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-0010
Dear Postmaster General Donahoe,
As we start a new year carrying the weight of recent and probable closures, layoffs, and consolidations to United States Postal Service operations in Montana, I wonder what lies in store for 2012.
In 2011, I joined my fellow Montanans in speaking out against proposed consolidations voicing the potential impact on the state’s elections process and bringing to light the vital role the USPS plays in helping to facilitate fair and well run elections in Montana.
Montana, and the rest of the nation, is in store for a competitive 2012 presidential election season. Voters and Montana’s county election administrators will rely heavily on the USPS to deliver timely election materials and absentee ballots, so that every eligible Montanan who chooses to exercise their fundamental right to vote has the opportunity to do so.
Here in Montana, an increasing number of our citizens are choosing to vote by mail. In the 2010 Federal General Election, 47% of the votes were cast by absentee mail ballot. That’s a large increase from just ten years ago, when only 15% of the votes were cast by absentee ballot. I fully anticipate the percentage of absentee mail ballots cast in Montana in 2012 to exceed any previous year’s total.
Whether the proposed changes include incoming or outgoing mail operations, closures, or another form of consolidation, I remind you that any delay in mail processing could unintentionally discourage Montanans from voting.
Montana law sets deadlines for counties to send mail ballots to voters before an election. Voters have until the end of Election Day to return their voted ballot. Postmarks are not accepted; therefore, the ballot must be in the election administrator's office before the deadline. Furthermore, Montana law requires counties to send voters important election materials, including the Montana Voter Information Pamphlet (which provides details on how to vote and the state’s ballot issues) and an annual address confirmation card to those on the Annual Absentee List. Should a voter not receive these materials in the time allotted, the state’s elections would suffer.
I am fully aware of the need to address cost savings in government. I only ask that the USPS considers every impact and studies every alternative before making a decision that could negatively impact mail processing and elections in Montana.
Montana Secretary of State
CC: U.S. Senator Max Baucus,
U.S. Senator Jon Tester,
U.S. Congressman Dennis Rehberg,
MT Governor Brian Schweitzer