Petersburg Pilot -

By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Alaska absentee ballots should have two stamps, but one is OK, officials say

 

October 20, 2022



This year’s Alaska general election absentee ballot is a hefty document, weighing in between 1.1 and 1.2 ounces.

If it were an ordinary letter, that’s weighty enough to need two stamps. But if voters forget, officials at the Alaska Division of Elections and the U.S. Postal Service say this year’s absentee ballots will still be carried — and counted — with just one stamp.

“If a return ballot is nevertheless entered into the mailstream with insufficient or unpaid postage, it is the Postal Service’s policy not to delay the delivery of completed absentee balloting materials, including mail-in ballots,” said James Boxrud, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s western region.

Tiffany Montemayor, public relations manager for the Alaska Division of Elections, pointed to USPS Publication 632, which states, “Shortpaid and unpaid absentee balloting materials will not be returned to the voter for additional postage. Postage is collected from the election office upon delivery or at a later date. The Postal Service will not delay delivery of balloting materials with insufficient postage.”

The current price for one first-class stamp is 60 cents.

The first absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election have already been sent, and the design of the return envelope includes a box for only one stamp, but fine print in the absentee ballot instructions says to attach 84 cents’ worth of postage.

That dissonance led to concerned posts on social media, some containing erroneous information.

Montemayor said there’s no statutory requirement that a ballot have a certain amount of postage to be counted. Ballots dropped off at a polling place or one of the regional elections offices don’t need to have postage, for example.

“Ballots that meet statutory requirements are eligible to be counted. Those requirements are: The voter is eligible to vote; (the ballot) has a voter signature, one voter identifier, witness signature, is postmarked on or before Nov 8, and arrives within the statutory timeframe following the election (10 days if postmarked within the US and 15 days if postmarked outside the US),” she said.

Nineteen states prepay postage for their absentee ballots, according to records kept by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alaska is not one of the 19, and a proposal to change that failed to pass the Alaska Legislature as part of a broader election-reform bill this year.

Ballots in the June 11 special by-mail primary election for U.S. House were postage-paid, but that was because federal law requires postage-paid envelopes for so-called UOCAVA voters — members of the military and Americans living overseas. They’re covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

In the June primary, which was held on short notice following the death of Rep. Don Young, there wasn’t time to set up a system to determine who got free postage and who didn’t, so the Division of Elections gave it to everyone.

In the November general election, when absentee voters request a ballot, they check a box indicating whether they’re a UOCAVA voter — and thus eligible for free postage — or not. Most Alaskans don’t check that box and don’t receive free postage.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 29. To request one, apply online or call the Division of Elections at 907-270-2700 or 877-375-6508.

The ballot must be delivered to an early or Election Day polling site, put into a dropbox at a regional elections office or be postmarked by Nov. 8. Ballots mailed from rural Alaska may take several days to reach Anchorage, where most mail is postmarked. Ballots may also be hand-postmarked by a clerk in a postal office.

The AlaskaBeacon.com is a donor-funded independent news organization in Alaska.

 

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