If you’re planning to mail in your ballot this year, there’s a one-in-three chance it will need an extra stamp.
Twenty-four counties, including Boulder and Denver, have two-page ballots this year. That will require postage of 68 cents to mail in the ballot, versus 47 cents for one-page ballots that fall under the one ounce maximum.
Three counties — Denver, and Costilla and Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley — have multi-page ballots because they’re covered under a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires ballots to be written in both English and Spanish.
But plenty of voters have doubtlessly already mailed in their ballots, or will soon, without enough postage. Then what happens?
County clerks aren’t advertising it, but county governments will pick up the tab for ballots short on postage — whether they can afford it or not.
“When I used to mail in my tax returns, I put extra stamps on the envelope to make sure it got there and I would get my refund as soon as possible,” said Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. “I can’t imagine any Coloradan would gamble with something as precious as a vote. Suppose that ballot doesn’t get delivered? That’s why we tell voters to use two Forever stamps to be sure. And many counties have 24-hour ballot drop boxes so voters don’t even need to use stamps.”
This year’s election will be the first presidential contest under a new set of rules from the U.S. Postal Service on insufficient postage for ballots.
In October, 2013, the Post Office changed its rules about rejecting ballots that didn’t have enough postage. Before that, if you mailed in a ballot with insufficient postage, it could be returned to you for the extra stamp.
But in 2013, the Post Office issued new rules that put it onto the county clerks to handle the difference when a ballot came in without the required amount of postage.
Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, no fan of mail-in ballots, sees adding proper postage as the cost of voting. A resident of Boulder County, he points out that the envelope for the Boulder ballot mentions that extra postage is required to mail it back in.
“We old Republicans know how to buy stamps. Younger progressives don’t know what a stamp is,” he quipped.
A stampless ballot in your own mailbox is unlikely to even get picked up. But what happens if you drop off your ballot at a post office “blue” box without postage?
The USPS says ballots cannot be mailed free of postage, but the cost won’t fall to you.
“Short-paid and unpaid absentee balloting materials must never be returned to the voter for additional postage,” the 2013 rules declare. “Postage is collected from the election office upon delivery or at a later date.”
Photo credit: Karen Horton, via Creative Commons license, Flickr