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 balloting materials, voter registration cards, absentee applications, and polling place notifications.

2. What is Political Mail?

Political Mail includes Political Campaign Mail and Political Message Mail.

n Political Campaign Mail is any material mailed at First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing 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 (e.g., Democratic National Committee or Republican Congressional Campaign Committee) to promote political candidates, referendums, or political campaigns.

n Political Message Mail is any material mailed at First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail prices by a PAC, super-PAC, or other organization engaging in issue advocacy or voter mobilization.

Political Mail may be sent for any public election — partisan or nonpartisan — for which there is a ballot. Political Mail is identified using red Tag 57, Political Campaign Mailing.

3. 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, but there are multiple ways and locations for voters to return mail ballots.

4. What is No Excuse Absentee Voting?

All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter must return the ballot by mail or in person. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states require a voter to provide an excuse, 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, and is added by the election jurisdiction, he or she will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.

5. What are Absentee Ballots?

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

6. 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 approved markings such as “M.C.” (member of Congress) or “U.S.S.” (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.” Members of Congress are banned from sending Franked Mail mass mailings within a certain period of time (90 days for the House of Representatives and 60 days for the Senate) before a primary or general election in which the member is a candidate. Mass mailings contain 500 pieces or more that are substantially similar, subject to certain exceptions.

Franked Mail Envelope

Franked Mail Envelope graphic

Franked Mail Label

Franked Mail Label graphic

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

Tag 11

Congressional Mail graphic

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

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

n Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse.

n Oregon, Washington, and Colorado hold all elections by mail.

n In addition to Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, 19 states allow “certain types of elections” to be held entirely by mail.

For more information, visit ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx.

8. What is the projected number of ballots the Postal Service will deliver for this year’s elections?

The Postal Service handled more than 20 million return ballots (not including military ballots) in the last midterm election, and more ballots are expected this year.

9. In the 2016 general election, how many ballots were delivered to troops around the world?

Between September 1 and December 10, 2016, the Military Postal Service postmarked and dispatched 51,531 voted absentee ballots to local election offices using Priority Mail Express Military® Service. Local election officials reported receiving a total of 27,504 non-voted absentee ballots. The average transit time for voted ballots returning to election offices was 4.3 working days or 4.9 calendar days.

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

Yes. U.S. Mail services are an important part of the U.S. election process. The Postal Service is confident in its ability to offer dependable and timely delivery of Election Mail and Political Mail.

11. What is the Hatch Act?

The Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321­–7326) limits certain political activities for most executive branch employees. For example, the law prohibits employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in the Federal workplace. The Hatch Act also prohibits executive branch employees from soliciting or receiving political contributions. Employees who violate the Hatch Act are subject to a range of disciplinary actions, including the following:

n Removal from federal service,

n Reduction in grade,

n Debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, and

n Suspension, reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.

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

The Postal Service is non-political, which means the organization cannot and does not support any political party or affiliation over another. The continued effectiveness of this organization depends on delivering 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 Hatch Act restrictions. This means that employees may not display political buttons while on Postal Service property or place bumper stickers on a Postal Service vehicle that indicate a preference for a specific candidate, party, or political position. Employees are also urged not to participate in any political discussions where customers are present.

This brief summary does not address all of the Hatch Act prohibitions. For more information about the Hatch Act:

n Visit the Ethics page on Blue at blue.usps.gov/uspslaw/Ethics.htm,

n Contact the HQ Ethics helpline at 202-268-6346, or

n Send an email message to “Ethics Help” (internal email) or ethics.help@usps.gov.

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

No. Mail is processed daily.

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

That varies on a state-by-state basis. There are currently 14 states that will accept postmarked ballots post-election in certain circumstances: AK, AR, CA, IA, IL, MD, NC, ND, NY, OH, TX, UT, WA, and WV. Some states, like Alabama, require a valid postmark for a ballot to be counted. Go to your state’s election website for specific information.

15. 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.