US Postal Service Tracking Undeliverable Political Mail — Even If It's Junk

Think you're tired of all the election baggage? Pity the poor letter carriers. Their bags have been unusually packed lately, with endless political mailings pushing candidates and initiatives on the ballot for what's been labeled a "rigged" election.

And perhaps because of those "rigged" charges — first leveled at Colorado by Donald Trump back in April, when Ted Cruz triumphed at the Colorado Republican Party convention — the US Postal Service is making sure that all election materials are accounted for.

Since Colorado sends mail-in ballots to all registered voters, everyone from county clerks to the Secretary of State's office takes extra care to make sure that mailing list is clean, using USPS change-of-address forms, among other documents, to keep the voting logs current.

But ballots are just the start of the USPS's burden. Last week, a postal carrier told us that he and his colleagues have been cautioned to make sure that any election-related mail that cannot be delivered is tracked to avoid any potential controversy.

After hearing that, we reached out to David Rupert, Corporate Communications for the Western Region of the USPS, who acknowledges that political mailings have definitely increased. But first, the official response: "The US Postal Service is proud of the important role we play in the election process. We strive to provide outstanding service for ballots and political mail during an election cycle. We would like to clarify how political and election mail are handled. In fact, ballots as part of election mail are delivered as soon as they are received, or are returned to the election authority with a proper reason for non-delivery."

That would be Colorado's county clerks, who handle ballots.

"Separately," Rupert says, "we have seen an increase in political-issue advocacy and candidate education mail. Mail that is undeliverable because it was addressed to nonexistent addresses or to individuals who have moved is being individually endorsed, documenting the reason for nondelivery. This process has allowed us to work with mailers to ensure they have accurate databases."

If 20 percent of an individual mailing is sent to “bad addresses, then we reach out to the sender to update their mailing list," he adds. "This applies to all mailings, not just political."

Good news for all those letter carriers: Those political mailings will come to an abrupt halt today...just in time to start filling their bags with holiday catalogues and greetings.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun