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Mike The Mailman Weighs In On Mail-In, Absentee Voting

Mike Herr, better known to most as Mike the Mailman, has been living the good life since his retirement in 2016.

Herr spent 48 years as a United States Postal Service employee in State College. Eight of those years were spent downtown, while the other 40 were spent at Penn State’s on-campus post office.

Herr and his wife have spent their newfound time playing tennis, and before the pandemic hit, they ran a bed and breakfast. When they can, they venture to Ardmore, Pa. to visit their 2-year-old grandson.

Herr’s well-deserved retirement came four years before this year’s general election, where voters are expected to vote by mail in unprecedented numbers. However, rumors surrounding ballot delays could get in the way.

Over the summer, social media posts showing mailboxes being removed around the country notoriously went viral, prompting nationwide conversations about the Postal Service. In response, the United States House of Representatives passed a $25 million relief package for the service to alleviate concerns of any mail slowdowns.

And despite the swirling rumors, Herr doesn’t believe the Postal Service would ever get in the way of the mail.

“I have never met a postal service person who would ever delay any mail,” Herr said. “For eight years I was downtown at the post office and I would never ever think those people would delay mail. From my experience, the post office guys and girls were great.”

Herr reflected on his time working during election cycles and said people were often confused about how and when to vote. He specifically cited the confusion between mail-in and absentee ballots as a reason votes could be delayed.

“A lot of kids would come in and say, ‘Hey, I need an absentee ballot,'” Herr said. “And I would say ‘Well, you have to get the absentee ballot from where you’re absent.’ The bad part about that is this happened so many times they would receive their absentee ballot like a day before the election.”

No matter what’s going on in the media, there’s no such thing as bad press. In fact, Herr believes increased coverage of the Postal Service could benefit students by encouraging them to make a clear and early plan to vote before November.

“It seems to me that it’s going to be much more closely monitored this time. Maybe this talk about the Postal Service thing has definitely helped with the confusion regarding the absentee ballots for sure,” Herr said. “I think everyone is going to be on their toes trying to get this stuff out.”

Although Herr had such an extensive career working in post offices, he recalls the volume of voter mail and mail-in ballots is drastically increased today compared to when he started working in 1968.

Herr expressed concerns that the controversy surrounding the Postal Service may develop a negative reputation for the post office workers.

“I think it concerns me, that hopefully the people, the real workers in the trenches, don’t get a bad rep because they should never get one,” Herr said. “It’s been my experience that those guys and gals have been the best workers I’ve ever worked with. They just always wanted to get the mail out.”

Herr specifically believes students participating in November’s election is crucial because it’ll have a direct impact on their futures.

“I think it’s imperative that students vote. This is going to be your world now,” Herr said. “You’re in the prime of your life. I think it’s a good decision to start putting the ballots together now and vote early. Build a country that you want to be a part of.”

Although Herr is enjoying the perks of retirement and a slower-paced life, he shared just how badly he misses the students and faculty. He said he loves interacting with the Penn State community however he can.

“I do miss the students, faculty, and staff. I’m a social person, and I really miss the camaraderie at work,” Herr said. “Although I don’t think management was too happy with just how much fun I had at my job.”

Herr wrapped up his call with Onward State with a hearty “We Are” chant echoed by his wife in the background.

Pennsylvanians have until October 19 to register to vote and until October 27 to request an absentee ballot. Ballots in Pennsylvania must be cast by 8 p.m. on November 3.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a senior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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