Postal Updates

Election 2016: If postage isn’t paid on your mail-in ballot, will your vote be counted?

May 1, 2021, 4 PM
Many mail-in ballots are sent with insufficient postage or no postage at all, even when postage is required. What happens to those ballots?

By Joe O’Donnell

Early voting is as popular as it has ever been, and with mail-in ballots a big part of that process, the United States Postal Service has an important role to play during the run-up to Election Day on Nov. 8.  

And the USPS does not let a missing stamp or two keep a voter from exercising their democratic freedoms.

Completed ballots mailed by voters will get to their destination regardless of whether or not the postage owed was paid, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle report. If you only slapped one stamp on a mailing that requires two, or if you completely forgot to pay for postage at all, the USPS pledges that your materials will get where they need to go. 

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“It’s a little-known secret,” USPS spokesman Gus Ruiz told the the Chronicle. “The Postal Service will always deliver a ballot, whether there is a stamp on it or not. We know how important this mail is, and we want to get it where it belongs as soon as possible.”

Voting in national elections is managed at the county government level. It is up to counties to decide if postage is going to be pre-stamped on ballot materials sent to early voters, or if the onus is on the voter to pick up the tab when they cast their vote.

The Chronicle used Californias Contra Costa County county as an example of one that does require voters to pay postage for their ballot. 

Instead of returning stampless ballots to the Contra Costa residents who dropped them in the mailbox, the USPS will make the delivery and then negotiate with the county after the election for payment to cover all ballots that had insufficient postage or none at all.

So do not think you can get away completely unscathed by knowingly dropping a stampless ballot in the mail. In the end, county taxpayers cover the cost of ballots without proper postage.

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle story here.