Mail the vote

Rockville, a Maryland city of about 68,000 residents near Washington, DC, made history last year when it became the state’s first jurisdiction to hold an election entirely by mail.

Based on the results, it might not be the last.

More than 12,000 voters cast ballots in the election for mayor and city council — up 88 percent from the previous election and the highest turnout in Rockville’s history.

“We were very pleased,” said Lois Neuman, chair of the city’s board of elections supervisors.

Rockville is one of several municipal governments that are turning mailboxes into ballot boxes, spurred by research that shows allowing people to vote by mail increases turnout.

Several cities and states — including Colorado, Oregon and Washington — hold all elections entirely by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To conduct Rockville’s first all-mail election, Neuman and her fellow elections supervisors relied on local Postmaster Gabriel Hamilton, who oversees the city’s four Post Offices.

Hamilton visited each office with sample ballots to ensure employees knew what to look for. He gave stand-up talks six days a week leading up to Election Day and even gave every employee his cellphone number along with instructions to call with any questions.

“This was my first encounter with voting by mail, so I guess we were all pioneers,” he said.

Rockville city officials, likewise, left nothing to chance, launching an aggressive mailing campaign to confirm voter registration information and promote the new voting initiative.

“When we started our outreach in May, no one knew what voting by mail was. By October, everyone knew,” Neuman said. “The questions we received in May were ‘What is vote by mail?’ In October, it was ‘When will I receive my ballot?’”

The city mailed ballots to every registered voter 30 days before the election. Every day through Election Day, Hamilton made twice-daily deliveries of mailed-in ballots to the elections board — even on Sundays.

“The Redskins were losing, so I wasn’t doing anything on Sundays anyway,” he said jokingly.

The cutoff time for ballot deliveries to the elections board was 8 p.m. the day of the election. Hamilton, escorted by postal inspectors, delivered the final round of ballots to city hall.

Rockville’s next election will occur in 2023 and, according to Neuman, the city anticipates using vote by mail again.

“Being that this was Maryland’s first vote-by-mail election, all eyes were on us. Our employees worked hard to make sure it was successful, and we’re proud we could deliver for the voters,” Hamilton said.

Is this for real?

Social Security card under game piece letters spelling the word fraud

The Postal Inspection Service wants USPS employees and customers to protect themselves from government impersonator scams.

During National Consumer Protection Week, which began March 1, the law enforcement agency is urging employees and customers to beware of scammers who pretend to represent the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies.

Often, victims are initially contacted via phone or email by a scammer who impersonates an agency official. The victim is then informed through misrepresentations and threats that he or she must remit payment to resolve an issue specific to the scam.

Here’s what employees and customers should know:

• Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency and isolate victims in order to induce the victims to remit payments, so don’t be pressured into making immediate financial decisions.

• Consult with a trusted friend or family member before making a payment.

• Don’t give your financial or personal information to anyone you don’t know and don’t trust.

• Reduce unwanted telemarketing calls by taking advantage of call blocking services, some of which are free. Contact your telephone carrier for more information.

• The Postal Service, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration and other government agencies will never call you and ask for payment over the phone or ask for your personal information.

• Report scams to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov.

More information about fraud prevention and consumer protection tips are available from the Inspection Service website, the Federal Trade Commission website and a free AARP helpline staffed by volunteers trained in fraud counseling at 877-908-3360.

Hidden connections

What do today’s smart TVs, fitness equipment and home security systems all have in common?

They can all connect to the internet.

This technology, known as the “internet of things,” refers to everyday devices that have an online connection — which makes them vulnerable to targeting by hackers.

Often, these devices are overlooked for security updates and aren’t secured with strong passphrases. They can also reveal as much personal information as your computer.

To protect yourself and your devices, the CyberSafe at USPS team offers the following tips:

Update. Stay current on all software updates and security patches.

• Disable. If your device is fully functioning without the internet, it’s safest to disable the online connection.

• Protect. Use a strong, original and memorable passphrase to serve as your password.

Remember: The workplace is also vulnerable to risks associated with the internet of things.

Plugging any personal devices — smartphones, tablets, wearable technology and even personal gadgets such as e-cigarettes — into USPS equipment violates Postal Service policy and puts the organization’s data at risk.

The CyberSafe at USPS pages on Blue and LiteBlue have more information and best practices.

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, which encourages the study and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

The annual commemoration traces its roots to the early 1980s. It began as a weeklong celebration in 1982, then expanded to a full month five years later.

The Postal Service has more than 289,000 female employees, or almost 46 percent of the organization’s workforce.

“Women have made important contributions to the Postal Service throughout its history, and they continue to do so today. In every area of our organization, women are helping to grow our business, serve our customers and shape our future,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, who became the first woman to lead USPS when she was appointed to her role in 2015.

In addition to recognizing the role of women in its history, the Postal Service honors women through its stamp program, including recent releases that paid tribute to journalist Gwen Ifill, astronaut Sally Ride and athlete Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly Brinker.

The usps.com Postal History section has more information.