Midterm election season is officially underway across the country. This year, millions of people will mail in their ballots on or before Nov. 8. For many voters, this means figuring out just how much postage they need to use before they drop their ballot in the mail.
Many states, including Virginia, California and Washington, do not require postage for mail-in ballots. But for those that do, what happens if the stamp isn't the right price to ship the ballot?
VERIFY viewer Anne emailed our team asking if mail-in ballots require two stamps. She also wants to know if her vote will be counted if insufficient postage is placed on the ballot envelope.
This reporting is part of a series of stories ahead of the midterm elections. If you have any questions about the elections, email us at email@example.com or message us on social media @verifythis.
Will the postal service deliver mail-in ballots with insufficient postage?
Yes, the postal service will deliver mail-in ballots with insufficient postage.
WHAT WE FOUND
The postal service will deliver a mail-in ballot even if it has insufficient or unpaid postage. This is due to a USPS policy that requires the postal service not to delay the delivery of completed absentee balloting materials, including mail-in ballots, according to Martha Johnson, a USPS spokesperson, and the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL).
“We are proactively working with state and local election officials on mailing requirements, including postage payment,” Johnson told VERIFY. “In cases where a ballot enters the mailstream without the proper amount of postage, the Postal Service will deliver the ballot and thereafter attempt to collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections.”
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So, it’s true that the postal service will deliver mail-in ballots if they don’t have enough postage — but election officials, and your tax dollars, may end up footing the bill for the missing stamps.
No postage is required to mail a ballot in 19 states and Washington, D.C, according to NCSL. But, if you live elsewhere, you may be responsible for postage.
That’s because each state, or local Board of Elections, determines whether to provide voters with a pre-paid return envelope for mail-in ballots, according to Johnson. They may also request that voters apply their own appropriate postage.
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Many mail ballots need just a single first-class stamp. However, you’ll likely need a second stamp if your ballot is bulky and weighs more than an ounce. USPS requires election officials to inform voters of the amount of postage required, if applicable, Johnson says.
If you plan to mail your ballot, state and local election authorities in your area can provide information about processes, rules, deadlines, and policies specific to where you live. For local voting and registration questions, click here to find your local election office’s contact information. For statewide voting guidance, visit USA.gov in order to easily access your state's official election office website.
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