Ram … Slow? Forsyth County Worried About Undelivered WSSU Election Mail

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[Image courtesy of wssurams]

I’ve written a lot lately about issues across the country with postal service – but in Forsyth County, NC the local election board is frustrated not with full-time postal workers but those who handle the mail at Winston-Salem State University. The Winston-Salem Journal has more:

The chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is raising concerns about Winston-Salem State University not returning undeliverable voter mailings to county election officials, resulting in what he says are inaccurate voter registration records.

Ken Raymond, the elections board chairman, said Thursday during a board of elections meeting that he had contacted Wake Forest University, Salem College and WSSU to determine whether the colleges’ campus post offices had any voter mailings that had not been delivered. WSSU officials said they had 142 voter mailings, including voter registration cards and list-maintenance cards.

Raymond had complained in 2013 that 400 undeliverable cards, including list-maintenance cards, were sitting at WSSU’s post office. Raymond’s primary concern then and now are list-maintenance cards that are sent out in January or February of every odd-numbered year to voters who did not vote in the last two congressional elections.

Those cards are supposed to be returned to the elections office so that officials can clean up the county’s voter rolls. Raymond said in an email Friday he is concerned that the problem has resurfaced.

“Because the cards were not sent back in a timely manner, Forsyth County’s voter registration records were inaccurate,” he said in Friday’s email. “That’s what I’m most concerned about — the accuracy of our voter registration records.”

For its part, the University recognizes the problem and says it will alert its post office employees about the importance of election mail:

Aaron Singleton, spokesman for WSSU, said Monday that the campus post office staff had two of the four staff members out on leave during the spring semester. One of those positions has been filled, and the university is in the process of beginning interviews for the second.

The school has a policy of sending cards up to a certain number to the elections office by registered mail, Singleton said.

“Currently, we’re reviewing our policies and updating … to ensure that this does not happen again,” Singleton said. “The university regrets any inconvenience to anyone affected.”

This story is a useful reminder that election mail (like all mail) often passes through additional hands after it’s delivered by the USPS but before it reaches the voter. Knowing that – and establishing communication channels with those individuals entrusted with taking mail “the last mile” to an addressee –  is another challenge for election offices to face.

Of course some of these issues, especially concerns about the rolls, could be alleviated somewhat by the use of online registration lookup and update tools, which can make the list maintenance process easier and more effective – particularly in college towns where students’ addresses can change every year for four years.

There have been other tensions between town and gown on the election front in North Carolina – Appalachian State University’s (unsuccessful) fight to get a polling location on campus being one – and cases like this do little to ease those tensions. Here’s hoping the University can get its post office back on track and ensure that the county election office is more friend than foe as the 2016 election approaches.

Stay tuned.

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