Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part II

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Election Mail

Angry Bear added this chart to depict how people are voting by mail. There are 44 million voters in nine (4 just added) states + D.C. voting by mail only, 118 million voters in 34 states where absentee voting is allowed for all, and 46 million voters in seven states where an excuse is required for absentee voting. The chart above reflects this pattern although some states changed how they vote by mail with some going to all mail, etc.  The purpose was to depict how big the mail-in voting is.

Mark: In the 2018 election there was an audit of election mail that showed that only 96-98% of ballots were delivered on time; in some areas these percentages were worse. The current on-time percentage for the USPS is somewhere closer to 95% right now (again, much worse in some areas). If we applied that number to election mail, that would be like throwing out 5% of the ballots. I do not think that you can deliver 100% of 1st class mail to all of the various addresses that they go to nationwide; there will always be a few problems with deliveries. However, 100% on time delivery of BALLOTS should be the goal for the USPS. There are many articles related to election mail concerns and suggestions that are being published in the leadup to the 2020 election and in response to nationwide concerns about holding free and fair elections, including one that I wrote.

A simple lack of institutional attention could noticeably slow down mail. For the most part ballots originate and are processed within a local area serviced by one or possibly two plants. This takes some transportation issues out of the equation. There are some areas, e.g. Florida where a significant portion of residents have second homes and may be mailing ballots from a distant location. Otherwise the concern is processing and on-time performance within a local area.

Not all first-class mail receives a postmark since some of it does not run through the machines that the USPS uses to cancel mail. Marketing mail would not normally receive a postmark. As recently as the 2018 election, the USPS typically treated ballots and other election mail as 1st class mail, even if it was sent at marketing mail rates.23 The letter sent by Thomas Marshall to 46 states’ secretaries of state and that is referenced above indicated that the USPS would not be able to guarantee on-time delivery of ballots (at least eight days out in the case of Washington state). Marshall’s letter suggests that election mail (ballots or requests for ballots) that is entered at marketing mail rates will be handled as marketing mail, which receives the least preferential handling.

Again, this is a change from how ballots were typically handled in elections as recently as 2018 (see pages one and seven of the referenced OIG report).

With regard to how ballots might be treated separately, the likely procedure is that employees would cull trays of mail for election pieces and possibly apply a single date stamp to a tray verifying that all pieces were cancelled as of that date. Since the issue in ballot return is getting them to a Board of Election or similar authority there really is no sorting involved. The action would be culling to identify pieces and advance them either to the final delivery carrier or to the plant that services that delivery entity. That’s one reason mail piece design is important – making ballots quickly and easily identifiable makes it easier to spot them and advance them through the mailstream. This would help with on time delivery. A typical mail tray is two feet long. For “flats” (flat pieces of mail that are larger than a standard 1st class letter by at least one dimension) there are approximately 115 pieces of mail per foot on a mail tray; for letter mail there are approximately 227 pieces of mail per foot. From my personal experience, if a clerk is simply culling a two-foot-long tray of mail for an easily identifiable piece of mail it should only take a minute per tray.

Opinion

The Board of Governors is made up of nine presidentially appointed members plus the postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general (currently not filled). The new Postmaster General (DeJoy) was selected by the Board of Governors chair (Robert Duncan) in May 2020. That Board of Governors chair is also relatively new to the position (appointed in August 2018) and is also a former RNC chair. Currently, only six of the nine presidentially appointed Board of Governors seats are filled (half of which are mandated to be from each political party). Of the appointed members of the Board of Governors, three were confirmed in August 2019 and two more were just confirmed in June 2020. That means that of the nine presidentially appointed members of the board there are three vacant seats, four members with less than two years of experience and two members who came aboard in June of 2020 and attended their first open session meeting of the board on August 7, 2020. That Board of Governors, with little experience at the USPS, is overseeing a Postmaster General with no institutional experience at the USPS. In my opinion, this inexperienced leadership set should not be making radical changes within the USPS that could have substantially negative implications for timeliness of mail delivery of critical mail (ballots, medicine, live animals, etc.) and the upcoming election.

The idea that a new Postmaster General, guided by a Board of Governors that is made up mostly by people with limited time in the position, would engage in major and drastic changes in such a large and nationally important institution that so many Americans rely on for delivery of mail and essential items like prescription medicine as well as items that are vital to their business (for example, live animals) is ludicrous. In addition to the relative unfamiliarity of the board members and the new Postmaster General with the workings of the USPS it is also important to consider that the board itself was in turmoil due to the resignation of David Williams in April. Mr. Williams was formerly the long time USPS Inspector General, recognized widely for his integrity and diligence during his long government career and particularly for his role as the USPS Inspector General. Mr. Williams resigned because of what he termed political interference and recently testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  Williams’ testimony, during which he expressed concerns about the interference of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the qualifications of Postmaster General DeJoy, can be watched on this Twitter posting of the testimony.

In my opinion OIG audits of all USPS mail processing plants well before the election would help identify where slowdowns are occurring. Currently Mr. DeJoy has indicated in his Senate testimony that he will not order trucks to run late or wait for mail and similarly that he will not order carriers to wait for mail before leaving for their deliveries. This is a substantial concern, indicating that Mr. DeJoy is unconcerned that he is creating delays in mail delivery that will almost certainly impact the ability for ballots to reach their destination on time. Service standard improvements will also help all those people who rely on the USPS for delivery of life-saving medicines, live animals and other critical items that are daily sent and delivered by the USPS

During this time of pandemic and facing one of the most important elections in the history of this nation it should be obvious to any reasonable individual that the postal network is an essential infrastructure that must be maintained and that service to the American people, the service that Congress clearly mandated in the legislation that governs the USPS, must be the highest priority. Meeting service goals, currently 96% on time delivery for first class mail is critical. For election mail, the mail that includes our ballots and represents our most sacred right, the right to vote, the goal must be 100%.

As of June 30, 2020, the USPS reported $12.9 billion cash on hand in its 10Q financial documents, an amount that should be sufficient to see the organization through the election. Congress has authorized an additional $10 billion in the CARES Act although Secretary Mnuchin has put conditions on its release.

The issue is not one of cash on hand or machinery. It is an issue of institutional will and responsibility. Will a 245-year-old institution, one that is beloved and regularly polls as the most trusted arm of the government with a 91% approval rating fall prey to political meddling and misguided attempts to hamper its ability to serve the American people during a critical and dangerous pandemic?

Transportation, including extra trips when necessary, needs to carry every piece of mail from every plant every day.

Carriers need to be given sufficient time and assistance to deliver every piece of mail every day.

Election mail, no matter what class it may have been entered at, must be treated with the highest priority.

Postal managers must work with local jurisdictions to ensure that ballot mail pieces are designed to be highly visible (through colored envelopes and/or envelope size) and efforts must be made to ensure that sufficient manpower is available on the days leading up to the election and particularly on election day itself so that if manual culling to identify, sort, and deliver ballots to local jurisdictions is necessary it is available.

Local elections officials should make postmark the standard for timeliness and just as the USPS reliably maintains facilities and hours on Tax Day so that people can get their taxes in on time, efforts should be made to accept ballot mail until the last poll in a state is closed.

Because ballots often run as presort mail and often do not receive a postmark, local officials and USPS managers must work to devise a system to apply postmarks to trayed mail indicating receipt of all mail within the tray by deadline.

Given the clear deterioration in service and the documented failure to meet service standards I believe it may be necessary, and is certainly wise, for courts to set benchmarks and require reports between now and the election to ensure that efforts to remediate delays are in place and working.

If necessary the USPS-OIG and the Postal Inspection Service should be utilized to conduct audits and ensure best practices are in place.

We have the resources to do this. If there are concerns about costs or deficits they can certainly wait until January when a new Congress can take up long term postal reform. But now, in this moment, when we are faced with an existential health crisis and an election that will determine the health of our democracy we must find the will to provide the service and infrastructure necessary so that each and every American who wants to vote can do so and can be certain that their ballot will count.

As permitted in 28 U.S.C § 1746, I, Mark Jamison, declare that, under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

Mark Jamison

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