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Processing work on mail in ballots for the Pennsylvania Primary election is being done by Tim Vernick at the Butler County Bureau of Elections, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Butler, Pa. (AP) Processing work on mail in ballots for the Pennsylvania Primary election is being done by Tim Vernick at the Butler County Bureau of Elections, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Butler, Pa. (AP)

Processing work on mail in ballots for the Pennsylvania Primary election is being done by Tim Vernick at the Butler County Bureau of Elections, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Butler, Pa. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 23, 2020

Postal service says its policy is to deliver even mail ballots lacking postage

If Your Time is short

  • When it comes to voting by mail, some states provide postage-paid ballots, but most don’t.

  • Technically, voters are required to pay for postage if they don’t have a postage-paid ballot.

  • But the U.S. Postal Service says its policy is to deliver mail ballots to election offices even if the ballots lack postage.

With more Americans expected to cast election ballots by mail as the coronavirus pandemic persists, this warning was shouted on Facebook:

"TWO STAMPS NEEDED FOR MAIL-IN BALLOTS MAKE SURE THIS GETS PASSED ON !!!!!!"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

That’s not entirely right. If you don’t live in a state that uses postage-prepaid ballots, you’re responsible for the postage, and ballots can cost more than one 55-cent first-class postage stamp.

But, the U.S. Postal Service says it will deliver ballots to election offices even if they lack proper postage.

Here’s what we know from a July 10 report, "Voting Outside the Polling Place: Absentee, All-Mail and other Voting at Home Options," by the National Conference of State Legislatures:

  • In most cases, it is up to the voter to pay for postage, although voters often also have the option of using official drop-off sites or dropping off their ballots at election offices in person.

    Featured Fact-check

  • 18 states require local election officials to provide return postage for mailed ballots: Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

  • For military and overseas voters, federal law generally specifies that ballots can be returned using a free postage-paid symbol.

The Postal Service has repeatedly said it will deliver ballots even if they lack sufficient postage.

"As required by federal law, appropriate postage must be affixed to all mailpieces entering into the U.S. postal service mail stream," the postal service said in a statement in April, according to The Guardian newspaper. "It is the postal service’s policy not to delay the delivery of completed absentee or vote-by-mail ballots even if no postage has been affixed or if the postage is insufficient."

"We are proactively working with state and local election officials on mailing requirements, including postage payment," the postal service said in a similar statement reported by the Associated Press in July. "In cases where a ballot enters the mailstream without the proper amount of postage, the Postal Service will collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections."

Our ruling

In some states, voters get mail ballots with prepaid postage. In other states, voters might need two or more stamps to mail their ballots. But the postal service says it delivers to election offices even ballots that are lacking postage.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (archived here), June 28, 2020

National Conference of State Legislatures, "Voting Outside the Polling Place: Absentee, All-Mail and other Voting at Home Options," July 10, 2020

Associated Press, Cost, "Hassle of Stamps Questioned as Mail-In Voting Surges," July 18, 2020

The Guardian, "Mail-in ballots can still be delivered without a stamp," April 22, 2020

Snopes, "Do Mail-In Ballots Require Extra Postage?", Jan. 29, 2019

WUSA9.com, "VERIFY: Your mail-in ballot will be sent regardless if it has a stamp or not," June 18, 2020

National Conference of State Legislatures, "VOPP: Table 12: States With Postage-Paid Election Mail," July 10, 2020

U.S. Postal Service, "Election mail," accessed July 23, 2020

Email, Brian Hinkle, National Conference of State Legislatures research analyst II, Elections & Redistricting Program, July 23, 2020

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Postal service says its policy is to deliver even mail ballots lacking postage

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