• on Jan 26th, 2009 in Products & Services | 4 comments

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    More than 31 million ballots were expected to have been mailed in the recent 2008 election — nearly twice as many as in 2004. Voting by mail has expanded as more states offer “no excuses” absentee ballots or conduct elections through the mail. Oregon has voted by mail since 1998 and has saved 30 percent of its election costs by eliminating polling places.

    To respond to the vote-by-mail movement, the Postal Service developed a national Election Mail program that offers training to help local officials use mail to increase voter turnout. The Postal Service and the Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee designed an Official Election Mail logo, which is available only to election offices. The logo ensures that Official Election Mail is easily identifiable. In the 2007 update of its Strategic Transformation Plan (click for link), the Postal Service also suggested developing new features — such as pricing that includes return postage and tracking using the Intelligent Mail Barcode — to encourage voting by mail.

    Supporters point out that voting by mail can increase voter turnout (between 2 and 10 percent), that voting from home allows more careful consideration of complicated referenda and initiatives, and that voting by mail is an answer to help infirm or handicapped individuals. In Oregon, more than 80 percent of citizens polled said they preferred voting by mail and rated it positively. Detractors, however, raise the possibility of undue influence on voters in private or outright fraud because the remote voting process cannot be monitored. One potential concern for the Postal Service is that it may come under pressure to deliver ballots for free.

    What do you think about voting by mail? How can the Postal Service provide the best service for Election Mail? Please comment below.

  • on Jan 16th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 14 comments
    A recent presentation by Deutsche Post describes the German delivery and logistics company’s efforts to transform its retail network. One particularly interesting innovation is self-service Packstations. Like the U.S. Postal Service’s APCs (Automated Postal Centers), these kiosks allow customers to ship packages. However, Packstations also provide 24-hour access for parcel pickup. Customers can register to receive their packages at any packstation in the country. When the package arrives, the recipient receives an e-mail or text message. Rather than rushing to the post office before it closes, customers can use their card and pin number to retrieve it at any time. This convenience is particularly helpful for people who have no way to get to a post office when it is open.

    Deutsche Post already has 1,500 Packstations in Germany and is planning to add 1,000 more. What do you think about Packstations? Would you use one?

    Should the U.S. Postal Service look into providing 24-hour parcel pickup? If so, how? What about combining APCs with parcel pickup?

  • on Jan 12th, 2009 in OIG | 17 comments

    Keeping the Mail Safe

    Even though the holiday season is behind us, as the old saying goes, “crime takes no holiday.” In fact, as the economy dips, crime generally moves in the other direction. A recent crime data report by a retail trade group showed an 84 percent increase in shoplifting as the economy weakened, with retail security experts saying the problem grew worse over the holiday season. Shoplifters are taking everything from CDs to gift cards. The Postal Service is not immune from this trend. Many valuable items travel through the mail. People send their friends and family presents, gift cards, and checks. They order merchandise online. The vast majority of these items arrive safely at their destination, but some do not.

    Because mail can contain any number of valuables — not just jewelry or other expensive items, but personal and financial information — thieves will try to steal it. Postal Inspectors investigate mail theft committed by those outside the Postal Service; Special Agents from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) focus investigative attention on postal employees who steal the mail. Successes by both of these law enforcement entities contribute to maintaining public confidence in the Postal Service and the mail.

    How can you help?

    First, if you suspect your mail has been stolen or have any information about a mail theft, contact the OIG’s hotline at 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644).

    Second, if you have any suggestions about how the Postal Service, Postal Inspection Service, or the OIG can better ensure the security of the mail, please share them. We can all play a role in keeping the mail safe.

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