Mail-in Voting

Testing the Post Office, Round 3: Mail Got a LOT Slower This Month

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Since August, NBC 7 Investigates has been testing the speed and reliability of the U.S. Postal Service heading into the election. Now, one week out from Election Day, the results are in.

In short: This month the mail slowed down. In fact, it slowed down by a lot. While this is still California -- meaning your ballot has until Nov. 20 to make it to the Registrar of Voters -- some other things didn’t go the way they should have during our test, things that could impact whether or not your ballot counts.

As part of the project, NBC 7 Investigates joined other NBC stations in a dozen major cities, mailing out hundreds of letters in August, September and October. This month, we sent more than 800 letters. We all mailed those letters on the same days in the middle of each month and asked participants to keep track of the day they received them in the mail.

NBC 7's Alexis Rivas has more on the test.

For August and September, we got nearly identical results: 88% of our letters arrived within three days. Ninety-eight percent got there by the end of the week. Not up to USPS standards, but probably not going to swing an election.

But this month is a whole other story: Just 79% of our letters arrived within three days. Not good.

A recent inspector general report attributed the recent mailing delays to 57 cost-costing changes made under the direction of Pres. Donald Trump’s newly appointed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy. That same report found he was less than forthcoming about those changes when he testified before Congress over the summer.

Once again, however, almost all of our letters arrived by the end of the week.

So here's the bad news: 17 percent of the letters we mailed out from San Diego, arrived without a postmark. That can get your ballot tossed if there is no date below your signature. So take a good look at your ballot envelope and make sure it's dated if you still plan to vote by mail this week.

And unfortunately, just like in August and September, 1.5 percent of our letters were lost. We still don’t know where they went, how they got lost or why. And while that sounds like a small number, it could make a huge difference in local races.

Let’s say a little more than half of San Diego’s registered voters vote by mail this year. One million ballots would go through the mail (that’s actually a modest estimate, considering that more than 726,000 San Diegans have already voted this way). If 1.5 percent of those votes get lost in the postal universe, that’s 15,000 votes that won’t get counted. To put that into perspective, City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Barbara Bry beat Councilman Scott Sherman by just 1,189 votes in the primary election to advance to a runoff against Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

“Our office was built around this,” San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said last week, doublng down on his confidence in mail-in voting.

Vu said that after the 2016 election, his office bought more sorters to prepare for an event in which 90% of votes (or more) are cast by mail.

In fact, Vu is so confident in mail-in voting, he voted that way himself.      

“Just because I wanted to test it out myself,” Vu said.

If you still haven't voted and you want to do so in person, there are 126 places in San Diego County where you can drop off a ballot until next Tuesday.

Here is a link to the list. along with their hours of operation.

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