Election Mail


Each election cycle presents a different set of parameters for ballot creation and for the size and weight of the return mailpiece. As a result, many voters do not know the correct amount of postage required to return their ballots by mail. Election officials must consult with a Postal Service business mail entry manager, MDA, or area and district Customer Relations manager to determine the proper postage required for mailing ballots to voters and for voters mailing ballots back to election officials.

Election officials are required to indicate in a prominent location the proper amount of First-Class Mail postage that must be applied to balloting materials for any election, whether sent in hard copy or electronic formats. An exception may apply in certain circumstances for balloting materials for military and overseas voters or where postage is prepaid. See Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®), section 703.8.1, to learn more about the postage marking requirements.

Military — APO/FPO/DPO

Key Messages

Even in times of war, the Postal Service has delivered the most fundamental symbol of democracy — a ballot – to those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. As the election season progresses, emphasize the following key messages:

n The Postal Service is honored to provide the brave men and women serving abroad in the military with the opportunity to vote.

n Any American voter living overseas can mail his or her completed ballot back to the United States free of charge at the nearest American embassy, consulate, or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO). under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). UOCAVA is a federal law that provides uniformed and overseas citizens the ability to register and vote absentee in elections for federal offices.

n If an overseas voter has authorized access to a military base, he or she can mail a ballot free of charge at the nearest APO or FPO.

n For the 2022 general election, special procedures for APO/FPO/DPO absentee ballots are in effect between September 1 and November 30. During this time, the Postal Service will provide special handling for dispatch via the International Service Centers (ISCs).

n The Postal Service recommends military voters visit fvap.gov/eo/overview for return ballot mailing dates.

APO/FPO/DPO Outbound Absentee Ballots

The Postal Service and the Military Postal Service Agency collaborate to provide special handling of absentee ballots to absent uniformed services voters with UOCAVA-authorized APO/FPO/DPO addresses. The Postal Service is committed to ensuring that everyone who votes by mail experiences an efficient process.

Here is a summary of special procedures for APO/FPO/DPO absentee ballots only:

n Election officials must mail absentee ballots at least 45 days before the November 8 election.

n Local election offices must segregate military absentee ballots to the Chicago ISC and the Miami ISC gateways. At ISCs, absentee ballots receive special handling, including accelerated sortation, special tray identification, and priority transportation.


n APO/FPO absentee ballots will be sent from local Post Office™ locations to the nearest Processing and Distribution Center for further handling. Postal Service employees will identify trays or containers of absentee ballot mail using Tag 191, Domestic and International Ballots, and present them to the Post Office facility.

APO/FPO/DPO Returning Absentee Ballots

Absent overseas uniformed services voters with UOCAVA-authorized APO/FPO/DPO addresses can return absentee ballots via Priority Mail Express® using Label 11-DOD, DOD Express Mail Label Absentee Ballot. The label includes “Waiver of Signature” and “Guaranteed by End of Day” endorsements, so ballots can be delivered the day they arrive at the destination Post Office.

Label 11-DOD

Label 11 DOD graphic

Familiarize yourself with the following operational guidelines for Label 11-DOD:

n The Military Postal Service Agency distributes Label 11-DOD overseas.

n The Priority Mail Express ballot label is only for voted absentee ballots from overseas U.S. military and authorized UOCAVA civilian citizens.

n The label may only be used by eligible voters when the return ballot is mailed from a Military Post Office (MPO) or DPO overseas.

n Overseas U.S. military and authorized UOCAVA civilian citizens must return their absentee ballots via APO, FPO, or DPO locations.

n Eligible voters may use the label on any size ballot envelope and must always affix it in the upper right corner.

n Voters keep part of the label in order to use the tracking number to track their ballots.

n At ISCs, absentee ballots receive special handling, including accelerated sortation, special tray identification, and priority transportation.

n The ballots arrive by international transportation at one of the Postal Service gateway offices for Customs clearance and initial processing at select designated offices.

n At these facilities, the mail is processed by postal automation equipment in an initial domestic sort for distribution throughout the United States.

New Ballot Mail Service Type Identifiers

Based on industry feedback, the Postal Service has updated the Service Type Identifier (STID) table for Ballot Mail in 2022. The Postal Service provides customized STIDs specifically for ballots to allow for Informed Visibility® Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV®-MTR) to identify mailpieces, with all expected service combinations, during mail processing.

Note that these new STIDs are not for all Election Mail. For Election Mail that is not a ballot (e.g., voter registration applications, polling place locations, ballot applications, and sample ballots), use the appropriate STID for the mail class as well as Address Correction Service (ACS™) and IV-MTR services desired that are identified for First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail in the STID Table.

As part of an IMb, STIDs offer mailers near-real-time tracking visibility on both outbound and return mailpieces. STIDs also provide the Postal Service with enhanced tracking capabilities that allow us to quickly identify and process on-hand ballots throughout the mail network. To learn more about STIDs and view the updated STID Table, see postalpro.usps.com/mailing/service-type-identifiers.

Official Election Mail Logo

The Official Election Mail logo is a unique registered trademark designed exclusively for inclusion in the design of Official Election Mail.

The Official Election Mail logo must be used on any mailpiece created by or on behalf of, an election official that is mailed to or from a citizen of the United States for the purpose of participating in the voting process. This includes balloting materials, voter registration cards, absentee applications, polling place notifications, and voter reply mail. The logo must be used on qualifying mailpieces in all classes of mail and all processing categories; however, it is not intended to substitute for postage.

When the Official Election Mail logo appears on a mailpiece, voters recognize the mail as important and distinct from partisan political mailings. Additionally, the logo serves to identify Official Election Mail for Postal Service workers and distinguishes it from the millions of other mailpieces that are processed daily.

Election Mail Checkbox

The Postal Service is committed to providing a secure, efficient, and effective way for citizens to participate when policymakers decide to use mail as part of their elections. In furtherance of that commitment, the Postal Service created the Election Mail Checkbox in PostalOne! processing and our Postage Statement forms (e.g., PS Form 3600-FCM, PS Form 3600-PM, PS Form 3602-N, and PS Form 3602-R) to get increased visibility of Election Mail in the mailstream.

Please check the “This is Official Election Mail” box for each mailing presented for acceptance. This provides the Postal Service with important insight into Election Mail volume by entry point that may help with future Postal Service capacity planning.

Serialized Intelligent Mail Barcodes

A serialized IMb is a 65-bar Postal Service barcode used to sort and track letters and flats. The barcode simplifies data-gathering by consolidating information for multiple Postal Service identifiers into one comprehensive location. Using a serialized IMb also expands mailers’ ability to track individual mailpieces and gain greater mailstream visibility.

Uniquely serialized IMbs facilitate the tracking of individual ballots to and from individual voters. A serialized IMb can be applied to most Election Mail and is critical for using IV-MTR service. The IV-MTR application provides information about when and where the Postal Service sorts a mailpiece on mail-processing equipment. A serialized IMb can also be used for address correction services: manual address correction notices, ACS, OneCode ACS®, and Intelligent Mail Full-Service ACS™.

Tag 191

Tag 191, Domestic and International Ballots, is used by election officials to identify trays and sacks of ballot mail destined for either domestic or international addresses. The tag (shown here) provides greater visibility to containers of ballot mail as they enter USPS processing and distribution operations. Tags are available at your local Post Office or Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU) at postalpro.usps.com/node/1623. To order online, use the order form on the Election Officials tab at about.usps.com/gov-services/election-mail.

Tag 191

United States Postal Service Ballot graphic.

The tag cannot be used to identify containers of other types of Election Mail, such as sample ballots, polling place notices, voter registration notices, or other election-related materials. Tag 191 also may not be used for Political Mail.

Mailpiece Design Analysts

The Postal Service strongly recommends an MDA review all Election Mail envelopes before printing. We recommend that election officials consult an MDA each year to review new and previously approved envelope designs. MDAs are experts on Postal Service mailpiece design standards and can provide guidance on envelopes that meet the Postal Service’s requirements, answer questions about mailpiece design, give advice on evaluating mailpieces for automation discounts, and provide technical assistance on the Postal Service’s envelope standards.

For assistance, customers can connect with an MDA by contacting the Mailing and Shipping Solutions Center (MSSC) via email at MSSCAdmin@usps.gov or toll-free at 877-672-0007 (select option 2 for mailing and shipping, then option 2 for MDA). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time (closed federal holidays). Also, mailpiece design information is available online at postalpro.usps.com/mailing/mailpiece-design-analyst-mda-customer-service-help-desk.

Mail Class

The Postal Service continues to recommend that election officials use First-Class Mail for their outbound ballot mailings to voters. Using First-Class Mail allows for faster service while maintaining high visibility as the ballot moves through the mailstream (when used with USPS visibility tools, like serialized Intelligent Mail barcodes). Nevertheless, the Postal Service has long engaged in several practices to prioritize ballots that are entered as Marketing Mail, regardless of the paid class, when capacity permits and when the mailpiece is identifiable as ballots by the Official Election Mail logo or other Postal Service visibility indicia.

Business Reply Mail and Qualified Business Reply Mail

Business Reply Mail® (BRM) and Qualified Business Reply Mail™ (QBRM™) are First-Class Mail services that enable election officials to pay the return postage (including a per piece fee) for ballots returned by the voter to election offices through the mail.

The mailpieces that election officials distribute must conform to a specific format, including use of a unique ZIP+4® code assigned by the Postal Service. QBRM proofs must be approved by the Postal Service and bear an IMb. QBRM applies only to automation-compatible cards and letter-size mail weighing up to and including 2 ounces. For more information on BRM and QBRM, see DMM 505.1.1 and 1.6 as well as Quick Service Guide 505 on Postal Explorer® at pe.usps.com.

Informed Delivery

Informed Delivery is a secure, free, and optional feature that can help election officials connect with voters by providing eligible residential and personal PO box consumers with a digital preview of their household’s incoming mail and the ability to manage their packages all from one location. Users can view grayscale images of the exterior (addressed side) of automation-processed, letter-sized mailpieces via email, USPS Mobile® App, or an online dashboard. Nearly, 43.5 million users are already signed up, with an average email open rate exceeding 64 percent. The Postal Service’s Informed Delivery feature continues to deliver on its value proposition to election boards by providing the opportunity to reach more voters, target and increase interaction with users, encourage responses to voter engagement campaigns, reach customers digitally from their physical address, and gain more returns on Election Mail campaigns.

A digital preview of the exterior of Election Mail offers benefits to both election officials and voters. Election officials are able to increase voter interaction with their mail and generate faster response rates. At the same time, voters have a more convenient and secure “vote at home” experience because they can see when their Election Mail will arrive. Learn more about Informed Delivery at usps.com/business/informed-delivery.htm.