A plan by the U.S. Postal Service to consolidate its mail sorting operations has one municipal clerk concerned about the impact of slower delivery on city functions - including voting.

The La Crosse and Onalaska common councils are among those opposed to the Postal Service's plan to close its mail processing center in La Crosse.

At a public meeting Tuesday, Onalaska clerk Cari Burmaster presented USPS representatives with a copy of the council's resolution urging the agency to keep the processing center in La Crosse.

"The citizens of Onalaska need the service," Burmaster said.

The postal service has proposed closing 250 mail processing centers in an effort to save about $3 billion a year. Under the proposal, mail sorting operations in La Crosse and Eau Claire and Rochester, Minn., would be moved to the Twin Cities, and the postal service would deliver local first-class mail in two or three days.

Burmaster noted that the proposed move to a two or three-day delivery standard would affect government functions - including voting.

"It's going to create havoc with absentee ballots," Burmaster said.

The city uses the postal service to send and receive tax and water bills, as well as absentee ballots.

Under state law, voters can request an absentee ballot up until the Thursday before an election. Ballots must be returned to the municipal clerk's office by election day.

A bill signed into law Wednesday will allow absentee ballots to be counted so long as they are post-marked by election day and received within three days of the election. Burmaster worries even that might not work with a two or three-day delivery standard.

"If we got a snowstorm or something and things got delayed, now we don't even get your ballot," she said.

The new law also prohibits clerks from emailing absentee ballots to anyone except those in the military or overseas, reversing a provision included in the voter ID law passed earlier this year.

La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said she hadn't heard much talk about the issue from municipal clerks but noted most are focused on preparing to implement new voter ID regulations.


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