The Corner


About That Postal Office Hysteria

The supposed Post Office conspiracy against mail-in voting feels a little old already, but it still has currency in certain circles, so it’s worth knowing the facts. Kevin Kosar of AEI has a great new report on it.

A key passage:

Despite a major surge in voting by mail, the USPS has more than enough aggregate capacity. Some 140 million ballots were cast (in person and by mail) in the 2016 election; if every one of those voters voted by mail this year, the mail they produce would amount to 5 percent of the 2.7 billion mail pieces USPS handles each week. Nowhere near that many votes will be mailed in, and they will be spread out over many weeks preceding the election. The head of the American Postal Workers Union, a spokesperson for the USPS, and a former chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission all have stated the USPS has plenty of capacity for ballots.

In fact, it is widely recognized in the mailing industry that the Postal Service has too much paper-mail processing capacity. (Package process- ing capacity is another matter.) In 2019, there were 47 percent fewer first-class mail pieces than in 2000. Thus far this year, paper-mail volume has cratered even further, and revenues from periodicals and first-class and marketing mail are 7.5 percent lower than last year to date.

As early as 2002, the USPS realized it had excess capacity, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and began planning to trim it. (And GAO agreed with the USPS’s assessment.) Mailing industry professionals who have considered the USPS’s more recently proposed sorting machine reductions have favored the action.

More broadly, the Postal Service must rationalize its network on an ongoing basis, both to control costs and seek out operational efficiencies. This is why, for example, the agency removed 14,000 of its iconic blue mail collection boxes between 2012 and 2017. They were underused and costly to service. This is also why USPS every year closes some post offices — more than 1,200 in the past 10 years.


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