Policies, Procedures, and Forms Updates


DMM Revision: Ballot Mail Clarification

Effective July 10, 2022, the Postal Service™ will revise Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®), section 703.8.0 and various other sections, to clarify standards for Ballot Mail.

This clarification is to improve awareness and consistency of the Postal Service’s longstanding recommended mailing standards for Ballot Mail. These recommendations have been shared directly with state and local election officials for years, and these revisions to the DMM will provide election officials with a consolidated resource that includes these recommendations. This clarification does not change these recommendations or introduce new requirements.

The Postal Service believes that adherence to these recommendations increases Ballot Mail visibility as ballots move through the network, generally improves processing, and enhances Postal Service customers’ experience. Election officials should follow these recommendations to help ensure that ballots are identified correctly and handled efficiently, providing Postal Service customers with quality service and prompt delivery.

To achieve awareness and consistency, the Postal Service is reorganizing section 703.8.0, and adding longstanding recommendations on mailpiece design (including using the Official Election Mail logo) and outbound ballot mail preparation.

Additionally, the Postal Service is revising various other sections to reflect the changes to 703.8.0. The requirements currently in the DMM, including in section 703.8.0, are being maintained.

Although the Postal Service will not publish this clarification in the DMM until July 10, 2022, the standards are effective immediately.

Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM)

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200 Commercial Mail Letters, Cards, Flats, and Parcels

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202 Elements on the Face of a Mailpiece

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8.0 Facing Identification Mark (FIM)

8.1 Using FIMs

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[Revise the text of item e. to read as follows:]

e. Return materials sent under 703.8.0.

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600 Basic Standards For All Mailing Services

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602 Addressing

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5.0 Move Update Standards

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5.2 USPS-Approved Methods

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[Add item e. to read as follows:]

e. Election Mail, meaning any item mailed to or from authorized election officials and that enables citizens to participate in the voting process (e.g., ballots, voter registration cards, absentee voting applications and polling place notifications), may be mailed using a USPS-approved alternative method with the approval of the National Customer Support Center.

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700 Special Standards

703 Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail and Other Unique Eligibility

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[Revise the title and text of 8.0 to read as follows:]

8.0 Ballot Mail

8.1 Definition

8.1.1 Ballot Mail

Ballot Mail consists of any mailpiece sent to or from an authorized election official and containing a live ballot that may be used to cast a vote in an election.

8.1.2 Balloting Materials

Balloting materials are materials sent to or from an authorized election official that facilitate a voter’s ability to receive and complete a ballot, including postcard ballot applications, all ballot types (i.e., sample ballots and live ballots), voting instructions, mailing instructions, and return envelopes.

8.2 Prices

8.2.1 Outbound Ballot Mail

Outbound Ballot Mail (i.e., ballots sent from election officials to voters) may be sent at First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail prices.

8.2.2 Return Ballot Mail

Return Ballot Mail (i.e., ballots that voters return to election officials) is sent at First-Class Mail prices, unless a voter opts to pay for a premium service.

8.3 Postage Requirement

8.3.1 Balloting Materials

Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.7, balloting materials provided to voters for any election, whether disseminated in hard copy or electronically, must indicate in a prominent location on the material that the proper amount of postage must be paid on return mailings. This information must be included in balloting materials with the marking “First-Class Mail postage must be applied.” Alternatively, the marking “Apply First-Class Mail postage here” may be printed in the upper right corner of the address side of the return envelope provided to voters. Approved versions of the markings will also be acceptable in either location.

8.3.2 Ballot Mail

Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.7, Ballot Mail must indicate in a prominent location on the mail the specific amount of First-Class Mail postage required for return by mail to election officials.

8.4 Design

Ballot Mail should be mailed as automation compatible letters that bear a unique Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) with the Delivery Point ZIP Code embedded and Ballot Mail Service Type Identifiers (STIDs).

8.4.1 Ballot Mail Envelope Review

Election officials are encouraged to submit new and previously approved Ballot Mail envelope designs to USPS each election cycle to evaluate compliance with mailing standards and Ballot Mail recommendations. Election officials should consult with Postal Service officials for assistance with mailpiece design, barcode placement, and determining the proper amount of postage required for mailing ballots to voters and the return of ballots to election officials.

8.4.2 Facing Identification Mark (FIM)

The correct facing identification mark (FIM) as described in 202.8.0 must be printed on the address side of Return Ballot Mail envelopes that are provided to voters.

8.4.3 Official Election Mail Logo

The Official Election Mail logo should be used on all outbound and return Ballot Mail. For additional information on the Official Election Mail logo, see Publication 631, Official Election Mail — Graphic Guidelines and Logos.

8.5 Preparation

8.5.1 Tag 191

Outbound Ballot Mail mailing containers should have Tag 191, Domestic and International Mail-in Ballots, attached.

8.5.2 Postage Statement

The required postage statement should have the “This Is Official Election Mail” checkbox marked for every mailing.

8.5.3 Move Update

Ballot Mail under 8.0 is eligible for USPS-approved alternative methods to meet the Move Update standard under 602.5.0 when approved by the National Customer Support Center.

8.6 Enter and Deposit

8.6.1 Verification

Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.7, a complete sample mailpiece must accompany each mailing.

8.6.2 Entry

Outbound Ballot Mail mailings should not be commingled with non-Ballot Mail pieces for mail acceptance and entry.

8.7 Exceptions to Standards

An exception to the postage, marking, and verification standards in 8.3 and 8.6.1 may be granted for one of the following reasons:

a. Ballots are mailed under 8.8.

b. Ballots are prepared and mailed under 8.9.

c. Ballots are returned under 505.1.0.

d. A postage due account has been established to guarantee the payment of return postage.

e. Prepayment of return postage is made by stamps, meter, or Permit Reply Mail.

8.8 Special Exemption

8.8.1 Definition

Balloting materials may be sent through the mail without prepayment of postage to enable persons in the following categories to apply for registration and vote by absentee ballot when absent from the place of voting residence and otherwise eligible to vote as an absentee:

a. Members of the Armed Forces in active service and their spouses and dependents.

b. Members of the U.S. Merchant Marine and their spouses and dependents.

c. U.S. citizens residing outside the territorial limits of the United States and the District of Columbia and their spouses and dependents residing with or accompanying them.

8.8.2 Eligibility

To be mailable without prepayment of postage, the balloting materials must be deposited at a U.S. Post Office, an overseas U.S. military Post Office (APO/FPO), a Diplomatic Post Office (DPO), or an American Embassy or American Consulate.

8.8.3 Between Officials

Balloting materials may be mailed between state and local election officials, individually or in bulk, without prepayment of postage. Packages of materials mailed in bulk must bear an address label as described in 8.8.

8.8.4 Elections Affected

Materials may be for any general election of electors for U.S. President and U.S. Vice President, or of senators and representatives in Congress, and other general, primary, and special elections.

8.8.5 Envelope

The envelope used to send balloting materials and the envelope supplied for return of a ballot must have printed across the face the words “Official Absentee Balloting Material — First-Class Mail” (or similar wording required by state law) in a rectangular box. Immediately below, the words “No Postage Necessary in the U.S. Mail — DMM 703.8.0” must be printed. Envelopes previously approved with the citation “DMM E080” must not be rejected. In the upper right corner of the envelope, in a rectangular box, the words “U.S. Postage Paid, 39 USC 3406” must be printed. An appropriate inscription or blank spaces for the return address of the sender must be shown in the upper left corner (see Exhibit 8.8.6).

Exhibit 8.8.6 Ballot Mail Formats — Envelope

[Add graphic from current Exhibit 8.2.5.]

8.8.7 Postcard

The federal voting registration postcard application must be approximately 5 by 8 inches. The design shown in Exhibit 8.8.7 must be printed on the address side of the card.

Exhibit 8.8.7 Balloting Material Formats — Postcard

[Add graphic from current Exhibit 8.2.6.]

8.8.8 Facing Identification Mark (FIM)

The correct facing identification mark (FIM) as described in 202.8.0 must be printed on the address side of envelopes and cards.

8.9 Priority Mail Express Label 11-DOD

Absent overseas uniformed services voters, as defined in 52 U.S.C.§ 20304(d), may return absentee ballots from the following locations by using Priority Mail Express Label 11-DOD without prepaying postage: Overseas APO/FPO military locations; DPO locations; or Department of State (DOS) locations. Absentee ballots prepared with Label 11–DOD affixed for return by absent overseas uniformed services voters from overseas APO/FPO military locations and DPO/DOS locations are exempt from the marking and verification standards in 8.3 and 8.6.1.

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The Postal Service will incorporate these revisions into the next edition of the online DMM, which is available via Postal Explorer® at pe.usps.com.