Election Mail

Plan Objectives

n Educate and inform the public on proper mail handling, key dates, and general election mail⁄political mail tips.

n Reinforce message that the Postal Service takes its job of delivering ballots and other election⁄political mail very seriously.

n Emphasize correct use for Tag 57, Political Campaign Mailing.

n Highlight correct use for Tag 191, Domestic and International Mail-In Ballots, and ensure this mail is correctly identified and promptly processed.

n Build awareness that official Election Mail and Political Campaign Mail are normally related to the same election event, but they are actually two distinct types of mail.

n Assure election officials that ballots will be handled correctly and educate them on the changes related to service standards so they can make changes to their processes in order for ballots to be mailed and returned in time.

n Increase attentiveness among employees that when they encounter official Election Mail or Political Campaign Mail in the mail stream to always handle it promptly and provide it with equal care and attention.

Key Messages

n The U.S. Mail is an important part of the U.S. election process, and the Postal Service is confident in the dependable and timely delivery of Election Mail and Political Campaign Mail.

n Voting by mail works and the Postal Service can be trusted to deliver ballots in a timely manner.

n The Postal Service is instituting a state-by-state outreach program to ensure election boards, political candidates, and mailers are aware of the deadlines for Election Mail and Political Mail.

n The Postal Service takes pride in the popularity of U.S. Mail as an efficient and effective means for citizens to participate in the voting process.

n The Postal Service expects to handle millions of ballots this election cycle — proof that mail is a dependable and protected way to cast your vote. The Postal Service strongly recommends allowing five days for the safe delivery of Election Mail ballots.

n More information: http:⁄⁄www.usps.com⁄electionmail.

Key Voter Message — Return Ballots

Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail need to familiarize themselves with their local jurisdiction’s requirements regarding timely submissions of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements. Voters should contact their local election officials for questions about local deadlines. The Postal Service recommends mailing ballots early to account for any unforeseen events or weather issues and to allow for timely receipt by election officials.

Key Election Official and Political Mailer Message — Return Ballots

Delivery times vary based on the class of mail, where it’s entered, and where it’s going. Most mail will be delivered within 5 days. Standard Mail® may take longer depending on where the mail is being sent from and delivered to. Election Mail coordinators can provide additional information about standard delivery times.

Whether the decision is to use First-Class Mail® or Standard Mail, working closely with local Postal Service election mail coordinators to determine a delivery time for the mailing is strongly encouraged. Contact information for coordinators can be found at http:⁄⁄www.usps.com⁄electionmail.


1. What is Election Mail?

Election Mail is any item mailed to or from authorized election officials that enables citizens to participate in the voting process, such as ballot materials, voter registration cards, absentee applications, and polling place notifications.

2. What is Political Mail?

Political Mail is any material mailed at First-Class Mail or Standard Mail prices for political campaign purposes by a registered political candidate, a campaign committee (federal, state, or local), or a committee of a political party (Democratic National Committee, Republican Congressional Campaign Committee).

3. What is Franked Mail?

Franked Mail is official mail sent by members and members-elect of Congress, the Vice-President, and other authorized individuals. Mail must relate to the mailer’s official business, activities, and duties. Franked Mail has a written or facsimile signature of an authorized user in the upper right corner of the envelope or a franked label, followed by “M.C.” standing for member of Congress, or “U.S.S.” for U.S. Senate. A Franked Mail label is required for items larger than a flat sized envelope. Franked Mail must not be returned for postage or delivered to the recipient as “postage due.”

Franked Mail Envelope

Franked Mail Envelope

Franked Mail Label

Franked Mail Label

Mass Franked Mailings are identified by Tag 11, Congressional Mail, and are NOT eligible to use the red Tag 57. Franked Mail should not be detained, except for mail security, and must be dispatched and delivered as addressed.

Tag 11


4. How many states use Vote-By-Mail?

Twenty-two states have some form of Vote-By-Mail elections. Three of the 22 states — Oregon, Washington, and Colorado — hold all elections by mail. 19 states besides CO, OR, and WA allow “certain types of elections” to be held entirely by mail. For more information, visit: http:⁄⁄www.ncsl.org⁄research⁄elections-and-campaigns⁄all-mail-elections.aspx.

5. How many ballots is the Postal Service projecting it will deliver for this year’s elections?

The Postal Service handled more than 25 million return ballots (not including military ballots) in the last Presidential election. The expectation is that there will be more ballots this year since there is another Vote-By-Mail state.

6. How many ballots were delivered to troops around the world in the 2012 general election?

Between September 1, 2012, and November 30, 2012, the Military Postal Service (MPS) received 51,725 absentee ballots from local election offices for distribution to overseas military members. A total of 89,329 voter ballots were transmitted back to the U.S. and local election officials using Priority Mail Express®. The difference between the number of ballots received and transmitted back is likely due to the fact that many voters chose to receive their blank ballots electronically, but printed them out and returned them by mail. The overall average transit of voter ballots from the absentee voter to election offices was 5.6 days. For more information, visit: https:⁄⁄www.fvap.gov⁄uploads⁄FVAP⁄Reports⁄2012report.pdf.

7. Is the Postal Service ready for the increased volume?

Yes. The U.S. Mail is an important part of the U.S. election process, and the Postal Service is confident in its dependable and timely delivery of Election Mail and Political Campaign Mail.

8. Will the service standard changes made last year impact voting by mail in any way?

No. Postal Service representatives are working closely with local and federal election officials to address and alleviate any concerns. The Postal Service is ready and committed to ensuring timely delivery of all election and political campaign mail.

9. What is the Hatch Act?

The Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) limits certain political activities of most executive branch employees. For example, the law prohibits employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in the Federal workplace. It also prohibits them from soliciting or receiving political contributions. Employees who violate the Hatch Act are subject to a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.

10. How does the Hatch Act affect the Postal Service and its employees?

The Postal Service is non-political — meaning the organization cannot and does not support any political party or affiliation over another. The continued effectiveness of this organization depends on the ability to deliver all political mailings without giving the perception that the views of one candidate, political party, or political viewpoint are endorsed over another.

It is the responsibility of all Postal Service employees to know and obey the Hatch Act restrictions. This means that employees may not display political buttons while on postal property or place bumper stickers on a Postal Service vehicle indicating a preference for a specific candidate, party, or a political position. Employees are also urged to not participate in any political discussions where customers are present.

This brief summary does not address all of the Hatch Act prohibitions. For additional information about the Hatch Act, visit the Ethics page on Blue at http:⁄⁄blue.usps.gov⁄uspslaw⁄Ethics.htm, contact the HQ Ethics Helpline at 202-268-6346, or send an email message to “Ethics Help” (internal email) or ethics.help@usps.gov.

11. What is Vote-By-Mail?

A ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter in advance of Election Day. Traditional in-person voting precincts are not available.

12. What is No Excuse Absentee Voting?

All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 20 states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list. Once a voter asks to be added to the list, she⁄he will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.

13. What are Absentee Ballots?

An absentee ballot is a ballot completed and typically mailed in advance of an election by a voter who is unable to be present at the polls.

14. Does the Postal Service process mail less now than it used to?

No. Mail is processed daily.

15. Do the return ballots need to be postmarked by a certain date?

That varies on a state-by-state basis. There are currently 13 states that require postmarks in order to accept ballots post-election: AL, AK, IL, IA, MD, NY, NC, ND, OH, UT, WA, WV, and WI. Go to your state’s election website for specific information.

16. Do the return ballots need to be postmarked even if there is a meter?

It depends on the location. Go to your state’s election website for specific information.