Monday, October 31, 2016

Postal Service Throws The Election Again - Musings on A Campaign (Almost) Passed

By Mel Carriere

This election season was brutal, and it's not quite over yet.  Here in San Diego it seems that political mail volume soared to new heights, even as voter apathy soared to new heights along with it.  Although many of us are not enthusiastic about going to the polls next Tuesday, November 8th, the mass mailers more than covered the enthusiasm gap by inundating maiboxes with a paper tsunami that literally leveled everything in its path, particularly me.  All of this laborious lugging of ballots, voters guides, revisions to voters guides, and knife thin political ads ranging from postcard to poster size has sent me home exhausted and nursing deep paper cuts, every day.

The question is whether the American public, or even the candidates who benefit from this holocaust of trees, this mass defoliation of millions of acres of irreplaceable forest, thank us for our efforts spent wearing down our already impaired muscles and joints with this extra burden of paper that doesn't weigh much per piece but has your straining satchel scraping the sidewalk when you stuff the blue canvas bag so tight that the seams start to split.  No, rather than express their undying gratitude for our efforts in making democracy work, they are already shouting "rigged election," and lining up to lynch a letter carrier on every street corner.  

Instead of looking in the mirror and saying "I suck, I am a totally uninspiring, uncharismatic, unabashedly unprincipled, unloved, unpleasant, uncouth undesirable," failed candidates and causes are looking to throw you, just an underpaid, underappreciated underling, under the bus.  Every public office-seeker keeps a stable full of scapegoats for pets to drag out bleating and head-butting in the event of failure, and one of these always has a postal logo emblazoned in bold blue letters across the horny nubs on top of its head.

The truth is, the USPS makes it easy for those aspiring to public office to complain when their favorite candidates, namely themselves, fail to top the polls.  Unfortunately, sometimes things happen to the mail.  It is not a perfect system, mistakes are inevitable, but their effects are magnified and multiplied when they happen in the height of the election insanity.  

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, an "unknown number" of absentee ballots were returned to sender because of a mistake in a mail-sorting machine.  Even though "Issues such as these are isolated and the vast majority of ballots are being delivered to election officials without incident," as a Postal Service spokesman was quoted correctly as saying, some embittered nominee is going to use this incident as the reason for why he or she is not being showered with confetti or pelted with champagne corks at a post-election party.  

In Denver, Colorado, an electoral college-tilting total of three voters complained that their mail ballots had been returned to them.  It must have been a very slow news day over there on the Front Range of the Rockies, because the story made headlines.  While not very significant in the big ballot picture, some long-faced loser will pick up this political football and run with it like Leon Lett returning a fumble in Super Bowl XXVII.  Also like laughable Leon, he will ultimately fail when some political Don Beebe knocks the ball, or ballots, out of his hands just shy of the end zone.  Let's face it, three votes does not an election make, but postal bashing is fun and always raises weak ratings on a day when nothing important is happening in the world.

Are there lamentable lapses that occur when politics and post office mix?  Yes, but I believe these isolated incidents of mail-processing snafus ultimately balance out when mail voters show up at polling places to vote twice, as Donald Trump reportedly urged his Colorado supporters to do. Isolated incidents of mail fraud like this balance the scales of isolated incidents of lost, returned, or misplaced mail ballots, for a net effect of zero.

Meanwhile, until Super Tuesday rolls around, go home and take an Advil for your aches, spread the Icy Hot on your ills, because you sure aren't going to get any comfort from the enraged electorate or the belly-aching baby kissers.

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