One of the last mailboxes’s around that I can find.
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First-Class Failure: Mail Delays Could Put Georgia Elections at Risk


Delays in processing mail at a new regional distribution center in Palmetto aren’t just affecting individual Georgians trying to obtain vital prescription drugs or pay their monthly rents or mortgages.

Chronic failures to deliver the mail in a timely manner are being seen in some quarters as a threat to the underpinnings of American democracy: elections and the ability to ensure an informed electorate.

Mail-in absentee ballots played a critical role in the 2020 elections, with voters wary of venturing outside during a global pandemic either for in-person advance voting or to cast their ballots on Election Day. Many voters liked the convenience of mail-in voting, and the practice continued in 2022.

But this year, officials in charge of monitoring the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) are worried that delays in delivering mail processed at the Palmetto distribution center will jeopardize mail-in voting in Georgia.

“Voters and election officials must know the amount of time needed to deliver ballots,” Michael Kubayanda, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, said April 16 during a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

The delays began in February when the USPS opened the Atlanta Regional Processing and Distribution Center in Palmetto, part of a plan to make the postal service financially self-sufficient and better able to compete with private shippers including Federal Express and the United Parcel Service.

To staff the new center, the postal service consolidated 10 local mail distribution offices in the Atlanta region into the one Palmetto location, a move that involved nearly 10,000 employees.

A recent survey found that since the regional center opened, only 36% of inbound mail is being delivered on time.

“You are failing abysmally to fulfill your core mission in my state,” Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., told Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during the hearing.

Ossoff said he’s heard from constituents who can’t get their prescription drugs or make rent or mortgage payments.

Meanwhile, newspaper publishers across the state are taking their complaints directly to members of Georgia’s congressional delegation.

Patrick Graham, president of the Georgia Press Association, which represents 90% of the state’s newspaper subscribers, wrote in a letter to the delegation April 8 that many in-town and nearly all out-of-town subscribers are not receiving their newspapers

“I’m losing subscriptions,” said Chuck Southerland, publisher of the Hawkinsville Dispatch & News, a weekly with a little more than 2,000 subscribers. “It’s not unusual to get a call once or twice a month (from a subscriber who didn’t get their paper in the mail). Now, we’re getting two a day.”

Graham wrote that the disruption in deliveries not only threatens newspapers’ bottom lines but leaves the public uninformed on important issues.

“Newspapers are not only economic engines for their communities, in many places they are the only reliable sources of information for readers,” Graham wrote. “Cities and counties throughout Georgia rely on newspapers to provide news about local governments, community events, crime and other issues that affect their daily lives.”

The Newnan Times-Herald, which serves a broad swath of west-central Georgia, plans to file a formal complaint against the Newnan Post Office over the delays.

“Many of our customers have complained that their newspapers are not delivered the same day,” co-publishers Beth Neely and Clayton Neely wrote April 22 in an open letter. “In some cases, they are two or more days late, others as late as weeks.”

DeJoy attributed the delays in mail deliveries in Georgia and at a second regional USPS distribution center in Richmond, Va., to growing pains in an overhaul of the postal service that’s necessary to stem the flow of red ink from the agency.

“This is an organization that has not engaged in change for over 15 years,” DeJoy told the Senate committee. “We are taking longstanding broken practices and trying to transition from losing $137 billion over the last 15 years.”

In light of the delays at the Palmetto and Richmond centers, DeJoy said the postal service will hold off on implementing the planned overhaul in other parts of the country until the consolidations in Georgia and Virginia take hold.

“I expect Atlanta and Richmond to be stabilized coming into the summer,” he said. “We’re going to fix it. … We’ll get to where we need to be in 60 days.”

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