Chuck Gray: Postal Service Plan To Move Services To Denver Could Impact Wyoming Elections

Secretary of State Chuck Gray is concerned that a U.S. Postal Service proposal to move processing and distribution operations from Cheyenne and Casper could negatively affect Wyoming’s election integrity.

LW
Leo Wolfson

December 31, 20234 min read

The Converse Avenue branch of the U.S. Post Office in Cheyenne.
The Converse Avenue branch of the U.S. Post Office in Cheyenne. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Secretary of State Chuck Gray is concerned that a U.S. Postal Service proposal to move processing and distribution operations from Cheyenne and Casper could negatively affect Wyoming’s election integrity.

The U.S. Postal Service earlier this month announced a proposal to downgrade Cheyenne’s mail processing from a processing and distribution center and move that work to Denver. The changes are expected to impact mail delivery times in Wyoming.

Gray sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday opposing the proposal and expressing concern about how it will affect the delivery of mail and impact elections in Wyoming.

“Along with other aspects of the proposal that I find troubling, I’m also concerned that it threatens the integrity of our electoral process and delays the processing of election mail,” Gray wrote.

As secretary of state, it’s Gray’s job to oversee the state’s elections. He said his office has been inundated with messages from Wyoming residents concerned that processing election mail in Denver would delay the delivery of mailed ballots and “impede the integrity of Wyoming elections.”

Gray told Cowboy State Daily his main concerns are that moving mail processing out of state will undermine the current electoral processes by slowing down delivery times.

“Wyoming mail should be processed in Wyoming,” he said.

But Gray also acknowledges in his letter that there has been past precedent to isolate Wyoming mail ballots for local processing. He demands DeJoy, who started under the presidency of former President Donald Trump, for written assurance this practice will continue for election mail.

“I believe Wyoming deserves written assurance from the Postal Service that Wyoming ballots will continue to be isolated and processed in Wyoming, rather than be shipped to Denver for processing,” he wrote.

The Processes

The delivery of absentee ballots would likely be the most significant impact of the processing changes.

Absentee ballots can be mailed to voters only as early as 28 days before an election. Previous law had allowed for up to 45 days, but that was narrowed by legislation passed during the 2023 session.

Absentee ballots must be completed and returned by mail or in person to a county clerk’s office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Last-minute campaign advertising sent through the mail also could be impacted by the change, which could affect races where important new information comes out about candidates in the waning days of an election.

However, over the last decade, more and more campaign advertising has moved to Facebook and other online channels and away from traditional mail.

How Would It Work?

Under the proposed USPS plan, Cheyenne’s mail services would remain open, but transition to a local processing unit instead of being its own distribution center. Similar changes are proposed for a later time for Casper, with its mail processing slated to move to Billings, Montana, instead.

These changes would leave the Cowboy State without a processing and distribution center.

Gov. Mark Gordon and Wyoming U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis have both opposed the change.

“I have more questions than answers about what operations will be transferred to Denver,” Lummis wrote in a letter questioning the move. “While USPS has said the plan will not disrupt services, it is unclear what data or facts have supported this statement.”

Lummis also blasted the Postal Service for what has largely been an opaque proposal process, one that hasn’t included any answers to the questions that people have.

DeJoy was criticized for cost-reduction policies he enacted after assuming his post, including eliminating overtime and banning late or additional trips to deliver mail during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, he issued a 10-year plan to stabilize the finances of the Postal Service by slowing first-class mail delivery, consolidating facilities, cutting post office hours and raising prices.

The Cheyenne facility is one of 30 mail processing facilities nationwide under review for consolidation. An average rate of 25 jobs have been lost where consolidation has already happened, according to savethepostoffice.com, an organization opposing the changes.

Secretary of State Chuck Gray, right, is concerned a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to move some mail services out of Wyoming will impact elections.
Secretary of State Chuck Gray, right, is concerned a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to move some mail services out of Wyoming will impact elections. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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LW

Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter