No Small Stuff (cont.) Postmark Problems?


[Image courtesy of olx]

Doug Kellner of the New York State Board of Elections recently sent me the following email, which illustrates (once again) how little things can have big consequences in the field of election administration:

I thought that you might be interested in this additional wrinkle that surely affects election administration in other jurisdictions besides New York.

Monroe County (NY) Elections Commissioner Tom Ferrarese informed us that:

Currently the Post Office seems to have made a decision not to postmark stamps that are either printed by individual users or stamps they print at the time of purchase. No postmark – voters will not be happy. I have already brought this to the attention of my Congresswomen, Louise Slaughter and her staff is investigating. I have attached samples.

The US Postal Service has responded that the postal cancellation served a business function of the US Postal Service and the new 3-D barcode stamps were designed by USPS to no longer need a cancellation. USPS responds that people using such stamps could go to the post office to request that the envelope be cancelled by hand.

We are concerned because longstanding policy has been to accept absentee ballots and voter registration applications received after the deadline as long as there is a postmark that shows the absentee ballot or voter registration application was mailed before the deadline. If the postmark is missing and the envelope is received after the deadline, the voter loses.

It is ironic that USPS has recognized that voting transactions by mail are a growing part of its business. Perhaps USPS needs to reevaluate this policy of phasing out postmarks.

This is yet another example of how the USPS’ efforts to streamline its operations – thereby serving customers by keeping the mail alive – can create issues for those same customers as voters. Doug’s observation that this creates a potential hardship – after all, voters may not know about the postmark issue, let alone that that they need to get hand cancellation to validate their ballots – is likely of concern to election officials nationwide.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out – especially given the growing importance of the mail to the election process.

Stay tuned … and thanks to Doug for sharing!

3 Comments on "No Small Stuff (cont.) Postmark Problems?"

  1. Debbie Formyduval | September 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Reply

    Warren county, NC does not use this system. Currently using Pitney Bowes with no intent to change

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