Berkeley Postal Carrier Convicted After Voter Guides End Up In Recycling Bin

 

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A Berkeley, CA postal worker was recently convicted and dismissed after last fall’s discovery that he had discarded about 100 voter guides in a recycling bin rather than deliver them. The Daily Californian has more:

On Oct. 11, 2016, Donoven Zaragoza, a carrier then employed by the United States Postal Service, failed to deliver voter information guides to as many as 100 registered voters in Berkeley. After North Berkeley resident Scott Wheeler reported finding a stack of unused guides in a recycling bin on the corner of Virginia and Walnut streets, USPS opened an investigation into the delivery failure. Once Zaragoza was identified, USPS transferred the case to the U.S. attorney’s office, which initiated and completed prosecution…

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California concluded that Zaragoza “knowingly and willfully” discarded the mail, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Californian. Zaragoza pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of mail and entered into a plea deal requiring community service. On July 27, the court dismissed all charges after finding the conditions for his plea deal met.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the registrar of voters for Alameda County, Tim Dupuis, was “very responsive” and immediately sent out replacement material to the affected registered voters.

This type of incident is a “rarity” for the postal service, according to USPS Office of the Inspector General Deputy Special Agent in Charge Glenn San Jose. When these incidents do happen, San Jose said, USPS “aggressively” pursues the matter. San Jose confirmed that Zaragoza no longer works for USPS.

“The majority of our employees are honest, hardworking civil servants,” San Jose said.

According to San Jose, the federal investigation concluded that Zaragoza was not motivated by “political biases,” though he does not know the exact reasoning behind the carrier’s actions.

I’m not excusing what happened, but I can guess why the carrier did it: California voter guides are typically quite thick and I wouldn’t be surprised if he just dumped them to lighten his load. Kudos to the USPS for its response – as more and more Americans rely on the mail for elections, it’s good to know that there is such a commitment to ensure that whatever goes into the mail stream gets where it’s going. That said, I do know there has been some discussion of moving the state away from printing and mailing guides in favor of an online guide, either statewide or on an opt-in basis. I’ll be curious to see if this incident contributes anything to that discussion. Stay tuned …

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