Mail-in Voting

What Are Mail Carriers Saying About the Mail?

A United States Postal Service (USPS) mailbox.
Ron Adar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A local mail carrier offered NBC 7 Investigates a rare look inside the U.S. Postal Service from the perspective of the person responsible for delivering your ballot.

As many as 80 million Americans are expected to cast their votes by mail in this year’s presidential election -- more than twice as many as four years ago.

For months, NBC 7 has been testing the speed of the U.S. Postal Service. The station has been doing that because in two weeks, that speed -- or lack thereof -- can make or break whether ballots are counted. Turns out, one of the people who tuned into NBC's tests is one of the very people we were testing.

“I liked that you checked to see that the postal service is doing its job,” said USPS letter carrier Eduardo Delgadillo, a 16-year postal service veteran who works out of the National City post office.

NBC 7 Investigates wasn't the only one checking, either. We joined NBC and Telemundo stations across a dozen major cities in mailing out hundreds of letters in August and September.

The tests began after Pres. Donald Trump's newly appointed postmaster general came under fire on Capitol Hill for changes that led to reported widespread delays over the summer.

“He has no idea how the postal service works,” Delgadillo said.

Delgadillo said he saw those delays play out here in San Diego -- saying that for several weeks, postal carriers were not allowed to deliver mail dropped off after the last truck run to the processing center, leading to letters piling up overnight at his post office.

“We were actually delaying mail that should not have been delayed,” Delgadillo said. “And that was concerning for all of us, because, you know, as mail carriers, that’s our job. And our jobs, you could say, are on the line.”

However, Delgadillo said those delays only lasted a few weeks. Now the changes have been reversed and things are back to normal, he said.

So what did he think of our test?

Remember, both times produced almost identical results:

88% of the mail we sent got to its destination within three days. That's below USPS standards but shouldn't make a difference in the election, because 99% got there by the end of the week.

That said, in both rounds some letters didn't have a postmark -- something that can get your ballot tossed out. And a few letters just got lost.

That said, in both rounds some letters didn't have a postmark -- something that can get your ballot tossed out in some places in the U.S. But in California, "If there is no postmark, ballots are considered cast on time by county election officials if the date the voter signed the envelope is on or before Election Day," according to the California Secretary of State.

“That should not be happening,” Delgadillo said. “To be honest with you: In my opinion, that should not be happening.”

Despite that, 1% of mail that got lost somewhere in the postal universe, Delgadillo said voters can cast ballots with confidence, adding that he plans to vote by mail himself.

“People should trust the postal service,” Delgadillo said.

That doesn't mean Delgadillo wants voters to wait. If they drop a ballot in one of those blue mailboxes, they should make sure to do so before the last marked pickup time. If it's dropped off after that time on Nov. 3, then there's a good chance it won't get postmarked on Election Day – meaning even if it arrives to the registrar's office in time, the ballot will be thrown out.

This year, the state of California rolled out a free ballot-tracking service for voters. NBC 7 Investigates has a step-by-step walkthrough of how to sign up.

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