BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With the presidential election just a few weeks away, many Central Oregonians are waiting for their mail-in ballots.
Residents of an apartment complex in northwest Bend were afraid they might have lost their ballots before they even got a chance to cast their vote.
Their mail carrier left the entire complex's mailboxes wide open on Thursday.
NewsChannel 21 asked resident Brandon Ham how long he believe the mailboxes were left this way.
"Mail at the latest is usually here by 5 p.m., and it was 8 p.m., so probably (they were open) three hours, if not more," Ham said.
One of Ham's neighbors, Mary O'Laughlin, said a few weeks ago, she was informed that her mail carrier would be training new U.S. Postal Service employees.
After witnessing the mailboxes left wide open, she reached out to the Postal Service for answers.
O'Laughlin said was eventually put in contact with a Bend USPS employee, who she said urged her to "keep it local."
Oregon has been conducting its elections exclusively by mail for over 20 years, so this is nothing new for the Postal Service.
We looked into what other factors could cause issues.
Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson told us letter-type mail has fallen off since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new hires are common this time of year.
"We have done some hiring," Swanson said. "That's in part to get ready for the typical annual holidays, year-end peak season, and those people are all going through training, so they'll be ready to hit the street here soon."
Swanson said the majority of new hires work in processing centers, but any new mail carrier leaving mailboxes open on the street will not be tolerated.
Swanson stressed that the Postal Service's No. 1 priority between now and the election is the secure and timely delivery of the nation's mail.
To our knowledge, no mail was stolen from the incident.
In an official statement to NewsChannel 21, the U.S. Postal Service said, "Extraordinary measures beyond the normal course of operations is authorized between October 24th and November 26th to accelerate the delivery of ballots."