Legislation seeks to codify long standing U.S. Postal Service practices and ensure voters do not have to pay to return ballots
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, and U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the Committee on House Administration, introduced legislation to direct the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to carry all election mail at a First-Class standard, postmark all ballots for federal elections, improve the processing of election mail, and have Congress reimburse USPS for carrying all election mail without postage. The Senate Rules Committee and the Committee on House Administration are the primary congressional committees charged with oversight over federal elections.
“The ability of the Postal Service to deliver election mail is integral to our democracy,” Klobuchar said. “Given its importance to our democracy, and Americans’ access to vote, election mail should always receive First-Class handling. There should also be no direct cost for voters to cast their ballots. We’ve also seen some challenges with processing and delivering election mail this year, and this legislation would help ensure these issues are resolved.”
“Americans’ fundamental right to vote is not up for debate during the COVID-19 pandemic or at the whims of President Trump,” Lofgren said. “This week, we recognize a grim milestone as over 200,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19. As we continue to battle this deadly virus, we must ensure voters can cast their ballots safely by following the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance and expanding voting options, including mail-in voting. This legislation would safeguard voter access to the ballot by streamlining the delivery and return of all election mail, and ensure American voters are not disenfranchised through no fault of their own. Vote-by-mail is safe and secure – it is important to expand protections for this voting option to all Americans.”
The Election Mail Act would:
- Codify First-Class processing and delivery standards for all election mail.
- Provide funding to ensure voters are not charged to ship election mail. Voters in many states have to pay for return postage on ballots, and this legislation would ensure there is no direct cost to voting. In states that prepay postage, this would not only save states and jurisdictions funding, but it would also simplify the process of preparing and sending election mail for officials. Currently, the ballots of all overseas and military voters are sent this way with Congress reimbursing USPS for lost revenue.
- Require states to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by election day and arrive within 10 day after the election, while permitting states to have deadlines more than 10 days following the election.
- Require states and jurisdictions to use Intelligent Mail barcodes that allow voters to track their ballots.
- Require USPS to postmark all ballots and election officials and USPS to use special tags that help to identify ballots in mail processing facilities to ensure timely delivery.