Between pandemic precautions and conversations about mail-in voting, post offices are making headlines.
"COVID-19 has changed many daily routines, but delivering mail and packages is not one of those changes. The Postal Service is committed to delivering your mail and packages throughout the current pandemic. We are proud in our role of providing an essential service to every community," said Claremore Postmaster Jesse Sixkiller. "With more people ordering online and stocking up on essentials because they don’t leave their homes as often, there’s been a high demand for home deliveries."
He said masks, gloves, and sanitizing products are available to all employees and that any employee who feels sick is encouraged to stay home.
"The same applies to our customers. If a customer is not feeling well, we encourage them not to come to the Post Office. If they need to purchase stamps or mail a package, this can all be done online at usps.com," Sixkiller said.
"To help keep the public and our employees’ safe during this time, we have adapted delivery procedures to promote social distancing. Instead of asking for a customer’s signature on a mobile device – the carrier will ask for a name and enter the information," he said. "We have also adapted our retail office procedures to promote social distancing. We are limiting the number of customers in the facility to eight at one time. We have had the floor marked in six foot increments with room for three active customers at the counter. These lines on the floor help customers who are in line to maintain a safe distance from each other. Customers will also see plastic barriers or sheeting at the retail counter to protect them and our employees."
Recent conversations about mail-in voting prompted conversations about the capabilities of local post offices.
"The United States Postal Service is committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system. We provide election officials who are mindful of our operational standards with a secure, efficient and effective means to enable citizens to participate in elections," David Walton, Corporate Communications for the United States Postal Service, told the Progress. "We offer a powerful, national communications channel which enables candidates and interest groups to directly reach every home and business for the purpose of informing the public about the issues and policies at stake when they vote."
Walton said the postal service is committed to delivering election mail in a timely manner.
"We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail, including ballots. This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local and state levels. As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting and will continue to proactively conduct outreach with state and local election officials and Secretaries of State so that they can make informed decisions and educate the public about what they can expect when using the mail to vote," he said. "As part of these outreach efforts, we will discuss our delivery processes and will consult with election officials about how they can design their mailings in a manner that comports with postal regulations, improves mailpiece visibility, and ensures efficient and cost-effective processing and delivery."
He said customers who opt to vote through the mail should understand the local jurisdiction requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots. This information can be found on the Rogers County Election Board website.
Walton said the postal service, as part of their ongoing outreach efforts aimed at educating people about their mailing requirements and services in advance of the 2020 elections, recently distributed a letter to local and state election officials and stat party officials around the country. This letter highlights key aspects of the election mail delivery process, as well as ways to help educate the public on what to expect when using the mail to vote.
Dispelling popular misinformation, Walton said, "the Postal service’s financial condition is not going to impact our ability to process and deliver election and political mail. The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected election and political mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our network is designed to handle increases in volume and deliver that mail in a timely manner."