• on Nov 12th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 5 comments
    The historic election of 2012 is over. Whether your candidate won or lost, you can feel confident that the American electoral process, a model for the free world, worked as the Founding Fathers intended – even if they never could have imagined spending billions of dollars on an election. However, many citizens complained about the long lines at polling places and the unreasonable wait times. The wait times seemed to range from 30 minutes to several hours. In some cases, voters abandoned the polls altogether after a lengthy wait. States have decades of experience administering elections, so it is particularly vexing that voting is so time consuming. Why should it take longer to vote than it does to conduct other routine government business? In many states, motor vehicles can be renewed securely in several ways, at the citizen’s convenience. The citizen can renew in person at an office of the motor vehicle administration, mail a renewal form, or submit a renewal application online. What can be done to make voting quick, easy, convenient and yet still secure? Since 1998, citizens of the State of Oregon have securely cast their ballots exclusively by mail. Although postal voting has increased the amount of time necessary to tally votes, Oregon has reduced the cost of conducting elections and seen consistently higher turnout than the U.S. average. Ballots can either be mailed (earning the U.S. Postal Service some additional revenue) or dropped off free-of-charge at a ballot collection center. All 50 states already have a postal voting infrastructure in place through the offering of absentee paper ballots. In 2011 Washington State followed Oregon’s example of total postal voting and 27 other states allow anyone to vote by mail (without excuse). However there are still 22 states where postal voting is not an option without a valid and documented reason. In some localities, citizens can visit their local courthouse or other locations for early voting or to submit their absentee ballot in person, weeks before Election Day. Many citizens take advantage of these opportunities, even if the voting locale is less convenient than their polling place. The Post Office, as the heart of many local communities and a trusted government entity, might make an ideal place for early voting or in-person absentee voting. Do you agree? Do you think voting by mail would work in your community? Would you use the Post Office to cast your ballot if that were an option? Tell us what you think.
  • on Nov 5th, 2012 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    As one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in years comes to a close tomorrow, the media is filled with campaign ads. Whether in the morning newspaper, through social media websites, or during commercial breaks on television, we hear constantly about various candidates and ballot referenda. The mailbox is no exception -- direct mail continues to be a widely used political advertising strategy. Recent reports indicate that nearly 2 billion pieces of political mail have been sent this election cycle, and the Postal Service projects it will earn nearly $400 million in revenue from this volume.   If you live in a swing state, such as Colorado, Ohio, or Virginia, your mailbox might have been full of political campaign mail all year long. In these battleground states, no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state's Electoral College votes.  Political campaign mail is a targeted and cost-effective way for the candidates to get their message to their intended audience. If you live in an area with hotly contested state or local elections, you've probably received a great deal of mail from their respective campaigns as well.  The boost in political mail volumes is a testament to the power of direct mail. More dollars may be spent on television advertising, but the ability of mail to pinpoint a message to voters at a reasonable price is especially attractive to candidates and the national parties. However, using this method too much can backfire. Voters report that the barrage of mail prompts them to tune out the message altogether. They throw away or recycle the mail without even opening the piece. Did you find the mailings effective? Did they help to inform your views of a candidate or a voter proposition? Or did the increased amount of political mail cause you to tune out the message? What advantages and disadvantages do you see over newspaper, television, or Internet advertising? Let us know what you think.
  • on Oct 29th, 2012 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments
    With so much technology at their fingertips, customers now want and expect complete visibility of their mail, from entry to delivery. The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) program has helped to bring total visibility closer to reality, and other technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning system (GPS) tracking, can fill the gaps. Complete visibility of mail provides real-time information about mail to customers and the U.S. Postal Service, including service performance data. This visibility into mailing activities allows the Postal Service to better manage its operations, increase route efficiency, improve service, and control costs. Mail visibility gives customers insight into mailing activities and provides them analytics to drive business decisions. As the IMb program matures and more customers adopt the full service offering, the Postal Service gets closer to total visibility of mail. But gaps in end-to-end visibility still exist, such as when mail travels on contracted highway route transportation and it is no longer “communicating” its location. One solution is to use GPS on HCR trucks to have visibility of mail during transport. In November 2010, the Postal Service initiated a limited-scope GPS program on about 900 of its 15,500 commercially contracted highway transportation routes, which covers about 300 highway contract route (HCR) suppliers. The suppliers were supposed to provide certain GPS tracking information every 30 minutes while hauling mail, including location of the vehicle. However, a recent OIG audit found that this GPS program was capturing only limited data, primarily because suppliers were not consistently reporting the data to the Postal Service. Limited data resulted in reports that were not useful for managing highway transportation routes. Still, the audit found enormous potential in this GPS program. If the Postal Service expanded it and data were captured and reported properly, it would provide the Postal Service with actionable reports that could include enhanced data analytics, real-time alerts, and fuel analysis and route optimization information. GPS data-based reports could be indicators of efficiency improvements, as well as potentially fraudulent activity. Further, the Postal Service could integrate this GPS program with its other mail visibility technologies, such as IMb and the surface visibility program, to enhance total mail visibility, which the Postal Service has cited as a priority and “essential to transforming the business.” The key, however, would be to ensure adequate supplier compliance. Further, integration of the various visibility programs would have to be seamless and cost-effective. What would be the best way to integrate the various visibility technologies? Would extending the GPS program to more surface transportation routes be a logical next step? Are there other technologies that should be considered to close some of the visibility gaps?

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