OWATONNA — For nearly 20 years, Deb Mortensen has carried mail throughout Owatonna for the U.S. Postal Service.
And in that time, she’s delivered thousands of letters, magazines, packages and political mailers — especially this year.
“Some years it’s really, really quiet and you hardly notice anything at all, but this year, because of the people involved, all the way around, I’m going to say it’s heavier than we’ve had in the past,” Mortensen said.
Hundreds of shiny political fliers for city, county and state candidates or organizations that endorse or oppose them have passed through the hands of Mortensen into residents’ boxes, but she said she hasn’t seen much from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, despite the attention it’s drawn through other media.
That was the case Wednesday morning as her carrier bag contained only a few political fliers for state candidates in a cul-de-sac of about 10 homes, but some days, the ratio is quite different.
Saturday was one of them.
“It was just crazy,” she said. “What they consider flats, we had about four or five of them that we had to take to each house.”
Tuesday, too, was filled with “tons of political mail,” said Jan Guse, Owatonna postmaster, acknowledging the postal carriers delivered anywhere from four to six mailers to residences and businesses throughout the city that day.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a really, really, really heavy [political mail] year.”
But Owatonna isn’t alone.
Pete Nowacki, U.S. Postal Service corporate communications spokesman, said nationally, mail volumes have increased by hundreds of million pieces this election cycle, which he noted begins during the primary season and continues up to the final days before the election.
During the 2014 election cycle, the Postal Service’s Northland District, which includes most of Minnesota and the western third of Wisconsin, saw political mail volumes in excess of 22 million pieces — and it wasn’t even a presidential election year, which means “the volumes could be even higher,” he said.
And while official figures for this year weren’t available, Nowacki said the trend has continued.
According to the Postal Service, spending on political mail increased from $176 million between October 2011 and July 2012 to $268 million between October 2015 and July 2016.
“While increased mail volumes always have some impact on how we do our jobs, this is nothing new. The election cycle occurs every two years. We know that it’s coming. We plan for it and make sure we have the processes in place to get the job done,” he said.
Nowacki declined to elaborate on how the post offices and postal carriers prepare for the influx in mail, but said it’s the duty of the Postal Service to “deliver this mail safely, correctly and on-time.”
“We are proud of the role we play in the electoral process,” he said.
Guse said the increase in political mailers may result in additional time spent sorting or delivering, but the post office is “happy to have the business.”
“We’re here to connect the nation, and that’s what political mail does,” she said, “and there’s been a lot of it.”
And when Election Day comes and goes, postal carriers, including those in Steele County, will start looking to another busy season: the holidays.