RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The November general election is just under a month away. Many Virginians have requested mail-in ballots and are hoping to get their votes in sooner rather than later.
Virginia residents have been complaining about bills or important documents that never arrive or show up weeks later. Senator Mark Warner knows that’s not going to fly with those who have requested ballots for the Nov. 2 election.
“I am extraordinarily concerned,” Warner said.
The mail-in ballot option is supposed to increase voter accessibility in the Commonwealth but now Warner worries about voters putting their faith in the U.S. Postal Service.
He said, “Some of these stories really scare the heck out of me.”
Voters in Henrico County and Chesterfield County have reported requesting an absentee ballot weeks ago, yet they still don’t have one.
In the Charlottesville area this past weekend, Warner had to step in and push for a surge in postal workers to get a backlog of mail to residents.
“55 additional carriers were brought in for Saturday delivery, 63 additional carriers were brought in for Sunday,” Warner said.
The senator admits that’s a stop gap and USPS is short-staffed.
“It’s not time to panic yet, we’re still 26 days out,” said Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections Christopher Piper.
He and Warner say they have been promised ballots take precedence.
“We have regular meetings with our partners at the United States Postal Service they have assured us absentee ballots, anything with the official election mail Insignia on there, which is required to be placed on there, is being prioritized,” Piper said.
Piper also said the great thing about Virginia is the voters have options for returning their ballot.
“I am fond of saying that we are like the fast-food chain, where you can have it your way,” Piper said.
You can skip the mail and drop if off early in a ballot box. You also can take your ballot to any polling location on election day. If that absentee ballot never arrives, you can still vote in person.
“They’ll ask you to sign an affidavit that says you haven’t received it or you lost it,” Piper said.
In addition, ballots that arrive by noon Friday after election day will still count. Piper advises the earlier you request your absentee ballot, the better. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 22.
Warner said he’s going to keep pressing the postal service for action and reform. He’s been calling on USPS to hold a job fair that was promised months ago. Meanwhile, he recommends voters avoid the mail-in ballot if they can.
Warner said, “I would encourage an individual if they are able to, go out and vote in person early.”
8News reached out to the U.S. Postal Service and they responded with a statement acknowledging a “ballot addressing issue” in Richmond.
The United States Postal Service is committed to fulfilling its role in the electoral process as a secure, efficient and effective way for citizens to participate when policymakers decide to use mail as part of their elections. The Postal Service has a robust and tested process for proper handling and timely delivery of Election Mail.
We are aware of some concerns about ballots in Albemarle County and have addressed the issue and notified all locations about the proper handling of ballots. Additionally, we are aware of a ballot addressing issue in Richmond earlier in the week, but that issue has also been addressed and our facilities are clear of ballots at this time.
We have taken specific actions to continue to serve our customers in Virginia, which includes hiring additional personnel and assigning carriers from around Virginia to support delivery of any backlogged mail with a hyper-focus on election mail. Recently posted positions in Charlottesville have closed. Some positions have been filled already and we are in the process of evaluating and hiring qualified candidates for other vacancies. Any positions not filled will be reposted on usps.com/careers.
We also note this has been an extraordinary year of unprecedented challenges given the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, staffing was impacted at Postal facilities around the country, including Richmond. We thank our customers for their understanding and continued support.
As part of the Delivering For America plan, the Postal Service is also committed to stabilizing and strengthening our workforce. From January 2021 through January 2022 we expect to hire approximately 100,000 employees nationwide. This number covers normal attrition and our peak holiday season. We have been hiring more than 40,000 employees for peak season, which includes positions in Richmond and the surrounding area. We encourage people who are interested in a career, part-time or seasonal position with the Postal Service to check usps.com/careers regularly as job listings are updated frequently.
The full “Delivering for America” 10-Year Plan is available online at usps.com/deliveringforamerica.USPS