USPS in ‘emergency’ mode to deliver ballots from states hit by Sandy

Letter carrier Dawn Greco wades in the water to deliver the mail after superstorm Sandy. Letter carrier Dawn Greco wades in the water to deliver the mail after superstorm Sandy. Alex Brandon/AP

The U.S. Postal Service is invoking “emergency operation plans” to ensure every absentee ballot is delivered on time for the election Tuesday, a spokeswoman has confirmed.

“We regularly deliver mail in adverse conditions and, therefore, where it’s safe to do so, USPS will continue to deliver the mail in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” the agency said in a statement.

Spokeswoman Darlene Reid-DeMeo told Government Executive that power outages have caused USPS to suspend service in much of New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, Staten Island, parts of Connecticut, as well as in Richmond, Va., and parts of northern Ohio, where the presidential election is closely contested. Mail from these areas is being rerouted to open processing plants.

In Philadelphia, which plays a critical role in the vote totals in swing state Pennsylvania, some post offices are without power but mail is being processed and delivered as usual, Reid-DeMeo said. Gov. Tom Corbett has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to Monday at 5 p.m.

Reid-DeMeo added that every precaution was taken in to ensure no mail was left behind in the flood in USPS’ blue drop boxes. They were cleared Monday, before the brunt of  Sandy hit, and again on Tuesday at noon, when a special pickup was added due to the impending storm.

“If a box was underwater,” Reid DeMeo said, “a customer would have to wade through the water to put their mail in the box, which is not likely.”

As soon as it is safe to do so, the Postal Service will send out mail collectors to ensure there is no mail remaining in the boxes. USPS will place any damaged mail in a plastic bag and return it to the sender. If the return address cannot be read, the agency will be sent to the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, where USPS staff will attempt to determine to whom the mail belongs and return it. 

The Postal Service said it is making every effort to deliver absentee ballots on time.

The agency’s emergency plans will “expedite recovery efforts including making sure there is timely delivery of mailed ballots,” USPS said in a statement. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation and will make adjustments to our delivery operations as necessary.”
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