The Alameda County registrar of voters mailed nearly 80,000 ballots to Berkeley residents in early October, yet more than 70 of them have not gotten theirs yet, according to a Berkeleyside survey this week.
The problem appears most serious for residents living on Spaulding Avenue and California Street, between Bancroft Way and Dwight Way.
“Our entire block has been affected,” one California Street resident wrote to Berkeleyside. “No ballots received.”
“My whole apartment building hasn’t gotten them, as far as I can tell, plus other neighbors on the street,” wrote a Spaulding Street resident.
The missing ballots are a tiny fraction of the approximately 78,000 that were mailed to Berkeley’s registered voters. But they probably don’t tell the full picture: They only reflect Berkeleyside readers who responded to our survey within a matter of hours Tuesday. And some of those readers said their entire households were affected.
The U.S. Postal Service is investigating why the ballots are missing, said USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. The USPS’s number one priority now is the secure, timely delivery of election mail, he said.
“It is being looked into at various levels — consumer affairs, mail processing operations and the post office,” Ruiz told Berkeleyside in an email Tuesday.
After publication, Ruiz also provided the following statement: “The Postal Service is aware that some Election Mail sent to addresses along the streets of Spaulding Avenue and California Street, between Bancroft Way and Dwight Way in the 94703 ZIP Code of Berkeley have not arrived as expected. Postal Management is researching the issue and will have nothing further to say until that review is complete.”
Tim Dupuis, the county’s registrar of voters, told Berkeleyside his team is also researching the situation. He said he hoped to be able to provide an update Wednesday.
Many people have expressed concern about the integrity of the election given the polarized condition of the country and President Trump’s repeated — and unproven — claims that the election will be rigged. He has repeatedly ranted about voter fraud and questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that ballots be mailed to every registered voter in the state. There still will be a handful of places in each county to cast votes in person. California also extended the time county registrars have to receive ballots, which will be counted as long as they come in within 17 days of Election Day. (They must be postmarked by Election Day, however.)
Even before the 2020 election ballots were mailed, Berkeleyside readers had reported spotty mail delivery. Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who lives in North Berkeley, said Monday he and his roommate had not gotten mail for several days.
Mail delivery in Berkeley was impacted in July when a few postal workers came down with COVID-19, forcing their coworkers to quarantine for two weeks. The city’s seven post offices, plus one in Albany, reduced their hours and closed for lunch because of those staffing shortages.
Those mail delays coincided with the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a major GOP campaign donor and the owner of a logistics firm that competes with the USPS, to the role of postmaster general. DeJoy ordered changes in how the USPS treated overtime and mail delivery, which caused days-long backlogs in delivering mail, according to a Washington Post report.
In mid-September, a federal court ordered DeJoy and the post office to abandon the new measures. The changes had already impacted delivery times, however.
“By the beginning of October, the agency delivered 86 percent of first-class mail on time, down from 90.6 percent before the changes took effect in July, and down from nearly 89 percent at the start of September,” the Washington Post reported.
In late September, Berkeleyside did an experiment to test the performance of Berkeley’s mail delivery. We mailed 160 letters from a number of different post offices around the city. Most of those letters went to Berkeley addresses, but a few were mailed out of town. Most were delivered promptly.
Of the 160 letters we sent, about 130 letters (81%) were postmarked Thursday, Sept. 24 (the day we mailed them). The vast majority of those letters (66%) arrived at their destinations by Saturday, Sept. 26, and nearly 90% had gotten there by Monday, Sept. 28. Several people never got their letters and a few others did not respond to our emails.
Berkeleyside will share updates on the missing ballots when officials provide additional information. See complete Election 2020 coverage on Berkeleyside.
What can you do if you haven’t gotten your ballot yet?
- Make a report: Ballots that have not been delivered by the expected delivery date may be reported as “missing” after seven days. You can also let Berkeleyside know.
- Vote in person: Early voting is an option already for those who can visit the registrar of voter’s office in Oakland at 1225 Fallon St. Hours are posted on the ROV’s website.
- Print your ballot: The state allows you to print your own ballot and turn it in with supporting documentation if you don’t want to wait for a replacement in the mail.
- Request a replacement ballot: Call the ROV’s office at 510-272-6973 to get a new ballot. It could take up to 14 days to arrive.
- Ask for a will-call ballot: The registrar will provide a pick-up ballot upon request.
- Vote on Election Day: See a list of polling locations in Berkeley, as well as other election resources.
- Track your ballot online.
Note: Berkeleyside added an additional statement from the USPS after publication, as reflected in the story above.
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