I’ve Been a Mail Carrier for 24 Years—Here’s the Truth About Ballot Safety

Request your ballot early, fill it out correctly, and then you can trust us to take it from there.

This year is my 24th year working as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS). I have been delivering the mail in a Chicago suburb since 1996 when I was just 18 years old. After graduating from high school, I was young and not sure what I wanted to do with my life. A lot of my family members worked for USPS and they really liked it so I decided to try it out. (Find out what another mail carrier with 20+ years on the job has to say.)

I ended up loving the job! The hours and pay were decent and the work was varied but what I enjoy the most is that I can work by myself. I’m not really a big people person so I know I would have been unhappy working in a restaurant or a store. As a mail carrier, I do have some contact with my customers, who are generally nice people, but I usually see just a few of them each day. This leaves me with plenty of peace and quiet. My job isn’t perfect and there have been days when I wondered why I signed up for it but overall it’s a great job for me. (Here’s what it’s really like to be a mail carrier.)

Then the pandemic hit

There are times each year when it gets really busy and we have to work extra but when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March of 2020, it became like nothing I’d ever seen before. Initially, it was a huge mess. No one knew what to do because there was no protocol for this type of unique situation. Every day the supervisors would give us different instructions. It also felt unsafe because we did not have the necessary safety gear like masks, gloves, or hand sanitizer, but we were still expected to do our jobs just the same. It hasn’t really gotten better since March. (Safety issues are just one of the 23 secrets your mail carrier won’t tell you.)

I’m working 12-hour days

In past years, the summer months aren’t busy but this year it’s the opposite. A big part of it is because a lot of carriers have continued to not show up for work as scheduled. Some say it is because of the Black Lives Matter movement while others are still worried about the coronavirus. It’s been really frustrating for me because they will take time off whether they are sick or not and sometimes still get paid while I end up working extra to cover their shifts. We are chronically understaffed so I’ve been working overtime almost every day. Many days I work 12 hours a day and I get scheduled on most of my days off as well, it’s been exhausting.

The upcoming election

USPS Pauses Mailbox Removals After Customer ConcernTheo Wargo/Getty Images

USPS recently warned that they may not be able to deliver ballots on time and there have been recent reports in the news about drastic changes at post offices, with some suggesting it’s an attempt to influence the outcome of the election. I can’t speak for the USPS as a whole but I personally have not seen anything like this at my post office. Nothing in particular has really changed in the past month and I want to reassure all my customers that at least here, things are going on as normally as possible and I don’t see that changing before the election. (That said, it’s normal for postal workers to see these 12 unusual things every day.)

We will make sure you get your ballot

The main issue seems to be worry over mail-in or absentee ballots. People are concerned that USPS will either not get them their ballot or that they won’t get them delivered in time to be counted. USPS has been handling election mail for decades without issues. I personally have delivered countless numbers of mail-in ballots over the years and I’ve never had any issues delivering or collecting them on time. I do not anticipate any problems with the ballots this year just like I did not have any issues with them in the previous years. As far as I am concerned, I will deliver them to customers as usual. Once they’re filled out, customers can either put their completed ballot in a collection box or hand them directly to me. I will make sure every one of them is delivered to my USPS location daily. What happens after that, however, is not in my control. (Elections are just a small part of mail service, check out these 11 secrets your mail carrier knows about you.)

What you can do

One thing you can do to make sure your vote is counted is to request your ballot early this year. We are much busier than usual and some things are taking longer so to be safe, get yours as soon as you can and return it as quickly as possible. Don’t wait until the deadline or close to it. (If you are close to the deadline, take it directly to a ballot drop box rather than mailing it, if your town or state offers those.) Also, make sure you follow all instructions so that your ballot is not marked invalid.

Please be patient with us as most of us are working very long hours but know that we take our jobs very seriously, especially when it comes to ballots. Know that your mail carriers are doing our absolute best to make sure every vote gets counted during this important election year. (P.S. here’s what you are legally allowed to gift your mail carrier.)

Sources:

  • CNN: “Postal service warns nearly every state it may not be able to deliver ballots in time based on current election rules”
  • AP News: “Trump admits he’s blocking postal cash to stop mail-in votes”
  • USPS: “Election Mail”
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