Election Mail and Political Mail Overview

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 ballot applications, and polling place notifications.

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 political action committee (PAC), super-PAC, or other organization engaging in campaign activity, 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.

2022 Election and Political Mail Plan

The Postal Service 2022 Election and Political Mail Plan coordinates strategy with key organizational priorities. The plan objectives are to:

n Educate and inform the public on proper mail handling, key dates, and operational guidelines for Election Mail and Political Mail.

n Reinforce the message that the Postal Service is deeply committed to its job of delivering Election Mail, including ballots.

n Ensure the correct use of Tag 57, Political Campaign Mailing. Political Message Mail (mailings from certain groups, including issue advocacy or voter mobilization) and Political Campaign Mail (mailings from certain groups or individuals related to a candidate, campaign, or referendum) may both use Tag 57.

n Ensure the correct use of Tag 191, Domestic and International Ballots. Postal Service employees must correctly identify and promptly process this mail. Tag 191 may not be used for sample ballots.

n Ensure the correct use of the Official Election Mail logo. It may be used on all Election Mail, including ballots created for federal, state, and local government elections.

n Inform election officials that ballots will be handled correctly. Educate the officials on what to expect when using the mail so they can ensure ballots are mailed and returned by the deadline.

n Ensure Postal Service employees know that they must always promptly and efficiently handle Election Mail with equal care and attention.

Key Messages

Mail is an increasingly important part of U.S. elections. Throughout the 2022 election cycle, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

n The Postal Service is committed to fulfilling its role in the electoral process for those public policy makers who chose to use our organization as a part of their election system. The Postal Service will ensure the dependable and timely delivery of Election Mail and Political Mail.

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

n Customers can trust the Postal Service to deliver their mailed ballots in a timely manner.

n The Postal Service offers a state-by-state outreach program to ensure election boards, political candidates, and mailers are aware of the appropriate procedures and important deadlines to help ensure the proper processing and delivery of Election Mail and Political Mail.

n The Postal Service expects to handle millions of ballots this election cycle — proof that mail is a dependable and protected way to cast a vote.

n In addition to any state or local rules, requirements, and recommendations, the Postal Service recommends that election officials consider providing applicable Postal Service mailing recommendations in their voter communications to ensure that individuals who wish to use the mail to vote know how to do so successfully.

n Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail should understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements, deadlines, and recommendations for submission of mail-in ballots.

n Military personnel serving overseas, such as Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office (APO/FPO) voters, must follow the return by mail date for their location (see fvap.gov/eo/overview).

n To ensure that mailpieces meet the Postal Service’s mailing standards and can be processed on our automated equipment, a maillpiece design analyst (MDA) has been assigned to assist each locality. We strongly recommend that state and local election officials work with the Postal Service before designing and printing any mailpieces for use in elections.

n To enhance visibility, we recommend use of the Election Mail checkbox and Official Election Mail logo for all Election Mail; and use of Tag 191, Domestic and International Ballots, for outbound ballots.

n We also strongly encourage election officials to use serialized Intelligent Mail® barcodes (IMb®), so that they will be able track their Election Mail. The IMb is a 65-bar Postal Service barcode used to sort and track letters and flats. It allows mailers, in this case, election officials, to use a barcode to participate in multiple Postal Service programs simultaneously, expand the mailers‘ ability to track individual mailpieces, and see where ballots are within the mailstream.

n Postal Service policy is for every completed ballot mailed by voters to receive a postmark, and we instruct our employees throughout the country to adhere to that policy. However, we acknowledge that there will always be rare occurrences where a mailpiece does not receive a legible postmark. Election officials are advised that the use of automation-compatible, letter-sized envelopes increases the likelihood that a mailpiece will receive a legible postmark.

n The U.S. Mail remains a secure, efficient, and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is proud of our role as an important component of the nation’s democratic process.

n All U.S. Mail is protected by more than 200 federal laws enforced by the United States Postal Inspection Service® (USPIS®), one of the nation‘s oldest law enforcement agencies. The Postal Service employs a robust and proven process to ensure the proper acceptance, processing, and delivery of Election Mail.

n The USPIS monitors election-related mail from the time it is placed into the hands of the Postal Service, and the entire time it is in our network up to delivery to prevent, identify, and mitigate any issues that might interfere with its secure and timely delivery.

Key Voter Message — Mailed Return Ballots

Customers who opt to vote through U.S. Mail service must understand their local jurisdiction’s rules and requirements for participating in an election, including rules and deadlines concerning the timely submission of ballots. Voters must contact their local election officials for questions about local deadlines.

The Postal Service’s mailing recommendations for voters include:

n In jurisdictions that require eligible voters to request a ballot in order to receive one through the mail, we recommend that domestic, nonmilitary voters request their ballot as early as their jurisdiction allows. Some jurisdictions, including Vote by Mail states, generally do not require eligible voters to request a ballot in order to receive one.

n For domestic, non-military voters who choose to use the mail to return their completed ballot, the Postal Service recommends that they mail their completed ballot before Election Day, and at least 1 week before the deadline by which their completed ballot must be received by their local election official. Some states may recommend allowing even more time for mailing completed ballots.

n Voters should keep in mind the time required for both legs of mail delivery — to the voter and back to election officials — when deciding how to participate in an election.

Voters in states that require ballots to be postmarked by a specific date must be aware of the collection times posted on collection boxes and at the Postal Service’s retail facilities. Voters must also be mindful of when mail is delivered and picked up at their residential mailbox. Ballots deposited after the last posted collection time will not be picked up, or postmarked, until the following business day. Voters must also be aware of mail collection times and practices if ballots are deposited in an office or residential mailroom.

Key Election Official Message — Outbound Ballot

Customers are encouraged to work closely with area and district Customer Relations managers to determine delivery times for mailings. The Postal Service recommends the use of First-Class Mail for all outbound Election Mail, especially ballots.

For Customer Relations manager contact information, use the interactive map on the Resource tab at about.usps.com/what/government-services/election-mail/welcome.htm.