If you mail in your ballot in Colorado, the U.S. Postal Service will deliver it to your county clerk even if you don’t add postage.
It’s not something the secretary of state or county clerks like to say out loud, but it’s true.
“I hate advertising this, but here’s the reality,” said Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams. If you mail in your ballot, in any event, “it’s going to get delivered.”
And it’s going to be counted, Bartels said.
But it’s not as if mailing a ballot without postage is a victimless act. Individual counties have to pick up the tab when voters short the Postal Service. That’s the case when voters mail ballots with insufficient postage or when they skip postage altogether.
Three county clerks contacted by The Colorado Independent said it’s not a major cost for their offices.
“What we’ve seen is that it’s an insignificant amount that the county is responsible for as far as postage or stamps on ballots. It’s not thousands of dollars or anything like that,” said Jenny Thomas, election coordinator in Routt County.
Most counties can’t easily determine exactly how much they spend making up for voters who don’t attach enough or any postage. That’s because the Postal Service lumps the charges in with the bills county clerks must pay for undeliverable ballots — those delivered to an address that no longer houses the voters the ballots are meant to reach. Ballots are marked undeliverable and sent back to the affected county clerks, at each county’s expense, when, for example, they’re dropped off at the former homes of voters who moved but never updated their addresses.
“So it’s hard for us to know the exact amount” Routt pays for postage, Thomas said, “but it’s not a whole lot.”
Added Mircalla Wozniak, spokeswoman for the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, “It’s insignificant, the amount of people who don’t put the postage on.”
Colorado voters’ ballots vary in weight, since some counties have more issues and candidates on their ballots than others. But the majority of counties require 71 cents postage, or two Forever Stamps. Others require just one Forever stamp.
More than 3 million Colorado voters will receive ballots by mail this year, but, for most voters, the matter of postage is irrelevant. According to the secretary of state, just 27 percent of voters returned their ballots by mail in 2016, whereas 66 percent of voters dropped theirs off at ballot boxes, which required no postage. Just 7 percent voted in person in 2016, state records show.
Voters who do plan to return ballots by mail are encouraged to do so by Oct. 31 to ensure their ballots are received by their county clerks by 7 p.m. on Election Day.