Senate Adopts Bennet Amendment To Keep Rural Post Offices Open Through Election Day

Amendment Would Help Protect Vote by Mail

The U.S. Senate today adopted an amendment cosponsored by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to the postal reform bill to protect vote by mail by putting a moratorium on the closing or consolidation of postal facilities until after the election in states, like Colorado, that conduct elections by mail or allow any voter to vote no-excuse absentee. The amendment was adopted with broad bipartisan support.

With the 2012 election approaching, United States Postal Service closures and consolidations of postal facilities pose a particularly serious risk to states, like Colorado, that rely on vote-by-mail for their federal and state elections. About 70 percent of Colorado voters voted by mail in the 2010 election.

“With so many Coloradans dependent on mail-in ballots to vote, we can’t allow anyone to be disenfranchised by proposed postal facility closures so close to an election,” said Bennet. “This amendment will help ensure that voting by mail can still run efficiently and fairly to protect the health of our democracy and one of our most important rights – the right to vote.”

The amendment also requires the Postal Service to notify election officials of closings and consolidations and requires that the Postal Service study the effect of closing or consolidating a mail processing facility on the ability of the affected community to vote by mail.

Changes in postal procedures could delay the delivery and receipt of vote-by-mail ballots as well as other election related material during a point in the calendar where such risks are not necessary to take.

The amendment was introduced by Barbara Boxer of California, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Dianne Feinstein of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Jon Tester of Montana and also cosponsored by Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

This is the latest of Bennet’s efforts to protect postal service for rural Coloradans. Last month, Bennet and Senator Mark Udall, along with 25 other Senators, sent a letter to the Senate panel that oversees the USPS to call for “significant improvements” to the postal reform bill to preserve First-Class and Saturday mail delivery, protect service for rural communities and spare 220,000 jobs that could be lost.

In December, the Colorado senators successfully pushed for a moratorium on the closing or consolidation of area mail processing facilities and rural post offices to give Congress time to address the USPS’s financial problems through comprehensive reform. In November, they wrote a letter to Senate committee leaders urging them to consider western states and rural communities when exploring potential reforms to the USPS. In the letter, the senators outlined priorities for reform that encourage innovation, take creative approaches to existing assets and maintain the competitive edge.

Earlier last year, Bennet and Udall sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General expressing concern over USPS location closures and consolidations that could make it more difficult for Coloradans to send letters and mail packages. They also sent a letter to Ruth Goldway, chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, urging the Postal Regulatory Commission to carefully consider the effects of possible postal service closures on rural areas and small towns in Colorado and across the country.

The postal reform bill, known also as the 21st Century Postal Service Act, aims to address the immediate financial strain and long-term solvency of the USPS by enacting reforms that modernize and streamline the postal service while striving to maintain high service standards.