More election mail winds up in a dumpster in Pennsylvania

In lieu of an exit question, let’s kick this off with an entrance question. Has this sort of thing been going on all the time but nobody bothered reporting on it? Because it’s starting to become something of a habit. This episode of the new hit show Which Mailman Is Trashing Your Mail Now takes place in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The story starts at a mental health clinic called the Persad Center. The manager of the facility was taking out some trash recently and when he opened up the garbage receptacles he was surprised to see a bunch of what appeared to be unopened mail. Closer inspection revealed that none of the envelopes and parcels were addressed to his facility, but to other homes and businesses in the neighborhood. The manager alerted the authorities and an investigation began, leading to the suspension of the postal carrier who covered that route. (Penn Live)

A mail carrier has been placed on unpaid leave after federal agents found mail in a trash can that was supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood.

The items the carrier allegedly tossed away included “several different classes of mail, including one ballot request and about two dozen political advertisements,” according to Special Agent Scott Balfour of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

“The mail was intended for delivery in the Bloomfield area of Pittsburgh, and was already returned to the USPS and delivered to customers,” Balfour said in a statement.

The “election mail” angle of this story is a bit fuzzy. Much like the recent case in New Jersey we discussed, there was a small amount of applicable material in the dumpster. There were no ballots, but there was one completed ballot application and some of the usual flyers and political direct mail advertising that we all receive this time of year. But there was plenty of other mail unrelated to the election.

Was this another “Cliff Clavin” character who just didn’t feel like making his rounds? He apparently made a habit of it if so. When the police reviewed security camera footage from the clinic they saw multiple instances of the carrier arriving to deliver their mail, returning to his truck, and then bringing more mail around to the parking lot to toss into the trash. So it’s very possible that the inclusion of the electoral and political mail was just happenstance caused by the election being so close.

But let’s assume for the moment that there was no intentional voter fraud taking place here and it was just a lazy postal worker. The end result is the same. That ballot application would never have made it to the office of the election officials and voter never would have received their ballot. The campaign literature is probably less of an issue for most of us, but it still deprived the candidate(s) in question of the opportunity to reach out to those voters. Even if that postal worker didn’t know or care about the absentee balloting issue, they were still impacting the process.

So returning to the question I raised at the top, how much of this is going on? I don’t recall ever going through stretches where may mail went missing, but perhaps I’ve just led a fortunate life. In 2018 a postal carrier in Brooklyn was arrested after it was discovered that he had hoarded more than 18,000 pieces of mail over a period of ten years. He claimed he was simply “overwhelmed” by the amount of mail he had to deliver. That same year another mailman in North Carolina was fired after he was caught on camera dumping hundreds of pieces of mail into a dumpster. The following year, another carrier in Milwaukee was canned for the same thing.

Are these scattered exceptions to the rule or is there more of this going on than we know? How many people who do this are never caught? I’d like to think the system is more secure than all of this makes it sound. But if not, perhaps focusing on the problems that might be caused in this single election year with so many people doing mail-in voting is the wrong issue to address. There are always some absentee ballots, even when we’re not dealing with a plague. Has the process been damaged all along?