The U.S. Postal Service’s Santa Clarita Processing and Distribution Center, along with other facilities in six states, is not quite ready for election mail processing ahead of November, an audit by its Office of Inspector General reported Monday.
Based on audits conducted during the special and primary elections held in May and June, the report found multiple “concerns surrounding integrating stakeholder processes with Postal Service processes to help ensure the timely manner of election and political mail” within the local facility and in Portland, Baltimore, Charleston, Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Oklahoma.
Concerns included: ballots mailed without barcode mail tracking technology, ballot mailpiece designs that result in improper processing, postmark requirements for ballots, voter addresses that are out of date and election mail likely to be mailed too close to the election, “resulting in insufficient time for the Postal Service to process and deliver mailpieces.”
Between April and June an estimated 1.6 million, or 8% of 20.2 million, mailpieces were not delivered on time, according to an analysis of data.
“Resolving these issues will require higher-level partnerships and cooperation between the Postal Service and various state officials, including secretaries of state and state election boards,” read a statement from the Office of Inspector General. “Timely delivery of election and political mail is necessary to ensure the integrity of the U.S. election process.”
This is not the first time the Santa Clarita facility has landed on the office’s radar for mail processing delays. A 2017 report found that, from April to September 2016, delayed mail volume at the facility increased by more than 34 million pieces, or 264% compared to the same period the prior year, while national delayed mail volume decreased by 75%.
To improve delays, the audit recommended leveraging established relationships with state and local election officials to work toward “creating a separate, simplified mail product exclusively for election mail that would support uniform mail processing,” as well as clearly defining roles, responsibilities and oversight.
Monday’s audit report comes after three others in two years over the Postal Service’s election mail processing, and since those previous reports, internal communications between headquarters and mail processing facilities and training have improved, according to the office’s statement.