• on Jul 26th, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
    Millions of people trust the Postal Service to mail their bills and cast their vote. In our previous voting by mail blog, concerns about potential fraud were identified and whether their votes would reach their destination. Others identified the potential for the Postal Service to expand its role and expressed relief in avoiding long lines to cast their votes.
    “The answer to the nation’s voting anxiety is not a national standard that imposes new rules on an outdated system of polling places. The answer is a low-tech, low-cost, reliable, and convenient system that makes it easier to vote and easier to count votes. The answer is Vote-by-Mail.” — Bill Bradbury, Former Secretary of State, Oregon
    Various voting methods have been explored over the years to provide secure and convenient ways for citizens to cast their votes and provide municipalities with cost-cutting opportunities. One method under consideration is voting by mail. The Postal Service has repeatedly been ranked as one of the most trusted government agencies and has a significant role in today’s voting landscape. The Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act, introduced by California Representative Susan Davis, will provide all eligible voters the option to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections for any reason. Currently, states such as Oregon and Washington use voting by mail extensively and many cities, counties, and other states are getting on board. Oregon boasts over a decade of voting by mail resulting in increased voter turnout, cost savings, and only nine fraud cases out of 15 million mail ballots cast. For years, the military has used the mail to allow overseas personnel to cast their votes. The Postal Service claims there are advantages to voting by mail, such as: •Increasing voter participation. •Giving voters a longer opportunity to study the initiatives, the candidates, and the ballot. •Providing an automatic paper trail. •Eliminating confusion about where to vote. •Providing privacy and security. •Offering a variety of formats to communicate with voters. •Giving easy and cost-effective solutions for returning ballots to help increase response. •Providing technology to help registrars update and correct voter registration lists and addresses before an election. •Offering return services at no additional charge with First-Class Mail®. Supporters of mail voting claim greater and more informed voter participation, less fraud, and lower administrative costs. Opponents say there is a risk of unauthorized voter participation, loss of the secret ballot, increased chance of fraud, inappropriate pressure from interest groups, and fewer opportunities for the community to come together. What do you think about voting by mail? We want to hear your experiences and ideas. What value does vote by mail add? What concerns or risks exist? Please share your opinions. This topic is hosted by the Human Resources & Security team.
  • on Jul 19th, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 29 comments
    UPS and FedEx frequently attempt residential deliveries when customers are not home. After a series of failed delivery attempts, these companies return the packages to their local distribution centers, forcing customers to travel to these remote locations to collect their packages. What if the Postal Service offered residential customers a service allowing them to use their local Post Office™ as an alternate delivery address? A delivery company would do its delivery scan at the Post Office and send an e-mail or text message to a customer telling him or her that a package is available. The customer could either pick up the package or have the Postal Service deliver it to his or her home on a specified day. The Postal Service could charge the customer a per-package or periodic (monthly or yearly) fee, or the delivery company could offer this service free of charge. In the latter case, the Postal Service could charge the delivery company, and the customer ordering a product to be shipped via UPS or FedEx could specify whether he or she wants the product delivered to a designated Post Office after the first, second, or third home delivery attempt. Post Offices would need space to store packages until customers pick up their packages or the Postal Service delivers them, so some Post Offices might be incapable of offering this service. Since this new service would most likely be considered a postal product, legal constraints should be limited. However, questions about access to postal facilities and security need to be addressed when exploring this opportunity. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Apr 5th, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 42 comments
    According to a New York Times article, nearly 10 percent of Americans do not have bank accounts. These and other underbanked people may be taken advantage of by lenders, check cashing facilities, and pawnbrokers through excessive interest rates and fees. Fortunately, in this country, there are many options for consumers to choose, including prepaid debit cards. What if the Postal Service explored partnering with prepaid debit card providers to sell prepaid debit cards at post offices, just as they are now sold at other retail outlets? While the Postal Service explored similar products in the past, the current economic climate calls for a reexamination of the product. The Postal Service’s current experience conducting financial transactions in the form of money orders and Dinero Seguro would aid in the introduction of prepaid debit card services. Offering the cards could create a new revenue stream for the Postal Service and earn interest on the cards’ float, the money residing in cardholder accounts. That money may be invested prior to its use by account holders. The Postal Service might also benefit from increased sales of other products due to an increase in store traffic. The Postal Service has two core market advantages that would aid it in successfully offering prepaid debit cards. First, with the second-largest retail network in the country, the Postal Service could sell prepaid debit cards in areas with limited private sector retailers. Second, customers may be more likely to come to a Post Office to purchase prepaid debit card transactions because of their trust in the Postal Service brand. Legal and regulatory constraints, however, currently prohibit the Postal Service from offering prepaid debit cards. Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the Postal Service cannot offer new nonpostal products. Private sector interests may also work to prevent the Postal Service from competing against them by offering this product. Finally consider that given the robust variety of financial institutions already in this country, the Postal Service should evaluate whether offering prepaid banking card services would provide valuable options to customers while making a profit for itself. What do you think? Why did you answer yes or no to the poll question? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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