With all of the discussions taking place on the subject of mass mail-in voting this year and concerns over the potential for ballots being stolen and fraudulently submitted (not that Democrats or most of the media want to discuss it), one obvious issue is coming under increasing scrutiny. Exactly how much mail theft is really going on in the United States? NBC News recently submitted FOIA requests and conducted interviews with postal inspectors to find out. They received a couple of different answers, beginning with a report saying there had been a huge spike in thefts over the past few years. That was then modified to say that the numbers were significantly “overstated.” And finally, the USPS threw up their hands and admitted that they really have no idea how much mail theft is going on.
The U.S. Postal Service has been under fire for months for a delivery slowdown spurred by changes brought by the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.
But the nation’s mail system has also been plagued by a previously undisclosed problem: It has no reliable system for tracking mail theft.
The Postal Service’s law enforcement arm acknowledged the shortcoming after NBC News, prompted by anecdotal accounts of an uptick in mail theft around the country, sought and received mail theft figures through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The linked report contains all manner of horror stories about thefts of letters and packages. This January in Phoenix, “several trays of mail” were grabbed out of a Post Office parking lot. In April, thieves at Grand Central Station in New York City made off with entire bags of mail and packages in broad daylight. In one suburb of Seattle, carriers have started to “avoid leaving unemployment and Social Security checks” at one apartment complex because the mail is stolen so often.
The initial report from the USPS claimed that they had seen a 600% increase in mail theft from 2017 to this year. But they then admitted that the figures represent customer complaints that can include many reports of issues that don’t actually involve theft, such as vandalism or delivery delays. So in other words, they have no idea how much theft is taking place.
Of course, it seems as if the USPS can’t really know the full picture because we’re talking about two classes of theft here. Some robberies take place before delivery but a lot of it happens after the carrier drops it off at the recipient’s address. The Post Office should certainly be able to track letters and packages as they make their way through the system so you would think they could tell you when things go missing, but apparently, they cant.
When it’s a case of mail being stolen after delivery, however, how would the postal service know? They might if someone reports the package or envelope not arriving, but what if they weren’t expecting it? This could be particularly true in the case of mail-in ballots in states that don’t traditionally conduct their elections this way. Unless the voter watches the state and national news like a hawk, they might not even be aware that they should be on the lookout for a ballot showing up in their mailbox. And if someone steals it at some point during the delivery process, they may be none the wiser and find themselves in for an unpleasant surprise when they show up at their polling place on November 3rd.
The US Postal Service is clearly in need of even more of an overhaul than the one currently being planned by the White House. If we’re not only unable to significantly curb mail theft but can’t even figure out approximately how much mail is being stolen, we have some bigger fish to fry than simply dealing with delivery slowdowns.