How much does it cost to mail an absentee ballot

Author’s Note: This information is current as of 2018. For details on absentee ballot postage for the current election, contact your county board of elections.

In the fast approaching midterm elections, nearly a quarter of voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail. Voting by mail is a necessity for people who are sick or living abroad, and some states allow all residents to vote by mail, for your convenience.

In many cases, those citizens will have to pay for the privilege of voting by mail: postage. but since each ballot requires different postage, the process of calculating the cost of your vote is not easy.

us postal service guidelines. uu. they say ballots must indicate “the specific amount of first-class postage.” they also say that ballot envelopes “must prominently state that the proper amount of postage must be paid” with the mark “first-class postage must apply.”

however, quartz has found that many US election ballot materials do not prominently display the required postage. in fact, submission requirements are often not explained at all, not even in the voting instructions.

Without standardized prices and sometimes without clear instructions, US citizens who vote by mail must go to the post office to weigh and pay for their individual envelopes; a hardly convenient solution for citizens who chose to vote by mail due to limited mobility or time in the first place.

Other countries, such as Italy, do not charge postage on ballots sent by mail, even from abroad. As vote.org CEO Raven Brooks puts it, “Things like [ballot postage] reduce voter turnout, because a lot of people today don’t even have stamps or don’t know where to get them.”

how much does it cost to send your vote by mail? It depends.

There is no centralized source of information for sending ballots. Most states do not publish information about the cost of postage or include it in the instructions. what should an American voter do?

quartz called election information offices in 50 states. after a tour of regional accents, here’s how they answered the question “how much postage is required to mail this year’s ballot?” in many cases, the office representatives were unable to answer the question. in others, they seemed unsure or hazarded an answer that didn’t take into account the different postage costs of different counties within the state.

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quartz also asked readers how much they paid for postage on the ballot and whether the instructions on the ballot said how much postage was required. Through your responses, we were able to cross-check some of the information we received from state offices.

Next, consider “stamp” to be a “forever” first-class postage stamp. If any of the shipping cost notes below don’t match your experience, please let me know at nalis@qz.com. the article will be updated accordingly.

al: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

reached about the postage requirement on the ballot, the alabama secretary of state was unhelpful, telling quartz, “I know it’s more than normal, but I don’t know exactly how much.”

alaska: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

alaska’s ballot may vary by county. the elections division was unable to provide details on postage requirements beyond that, but said the exact amount of postage required would be indicated in the voting instructions.

arizona:

postage paid, no stamp required.

arkansas: 💮💮💮

three seals.

california: 💮

While postage is free in parts of California, some counties still require postage. a 71-cent stamp should suffice, according to the state election information line, and most instructions will clearly state the exact amount. In Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo, all ballots are mailed. By 2019, all of California will provide postage-paid ballots to voters by mail.

*red:

Colorado counties advise the voter of the exact postage required to return the ballot by mail. but if the voter does not have enough postage, the county covers the difference and the ballot is still delivered.

connecticut: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“I have no idea.”

de: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“it should be just a [seal], I’m not sure.”

*florida:

postage is paid in some florida counties. in others, however, the postage varies. readers have reported paying anywhere from 50 cents to $1.42 for postage.

georgia:

Georgia’s secretary of state’s office said ballot postage information had been requested at the county level. We checked with Fulton County, the most populous county in the state; there, the electoral office said, “it varies, but it shouldn’t have more than two stamps.”

*hawaii: ✅

postage is paid for hawaii voters. (although the response we received was “not sure, maybe a stamp?”)

idaho: 💮

Ballots can be mailed with a 49-cent stamp, said the gentleman on the election information service line.

*illinois:

some illinois counties pay for postage. others, however, do not. a kendall county reader sent in a photo of his ballot, which read “postage required. the post office does not ship without postage.” (however it will, see below).

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indian: ✅

postage paid, no stamp required.

iowa: ✅

postage paid, no stamp required.

kansas: ✅

postage paid, no stamp required.

kentucky: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“I don’t know, it depends on how many pages you want to mail; it’s between 47 cents and $3,” the kentucky representative told quartz.

louisiana: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

Although she couldn’t provide an exact cost, the woman who answered the louisiana tip line offered this practical advice: “whatever postage was on the ticket when you received it, use the same postage.”

main: 💮

Primary absentees may submit their votes with a 71-cent stamp.

maryland: 💮💮

“I would make two seals,” a state representative told quartz.

massachusetts: 💮💮💮

“it’s 84 cents or something; just put three forever stamps on it.”

michigan: 💮

put a 71 cent stamp on it.

minnesota: ✅

postage paid, no stamp required.

mississippi: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“I think a stamp would suffice,” the election information line told quartz. best to go to your local post office and check by weighing the envelope.

missouri: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“I have no idea.”

mountain: 💮

According to a knowledgeable spokesperson for the secretary of state, the ballot typically requires 50 cents (a stamp) to mail. if your ballot has more than one page, the price goes up to 71 cents. however, he said, if the voter only wanted to affix a stamp, the county would pay the remaining postage. In many Montana counties, the mailing instructions will specify the exact cost.

Nebraska: 💮💮

two stamps forever.

snowfall ✅

postage paid, “no postage required”.

new hampshire: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

Hampshire Secretary of State’s new voter information line was unable to provide information on postage of ballots. “[the cost] would be whatever the cost is from where [voters] are,” said the operator of the direct line to Quartz.

*new jersey:

Some New Jersey counties pay return postage and no stamp is required. other ballots, however, are addressed “place stamp here.”

new mexico: 💮💮💮

“it’s a surprise!” the woman on the secretary of state’s poll line joked, but gave a very accurate answer: it’s $1.21 in postage or $1.45 with stamps (3 stamps).

nyc: (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

The man who worked at the secretary of state in new york not only had no answers, he seemed genuinely surprised by the question.

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north carolina 💮

a seal forever.

north dakota 💮

a seal forever.

ooh 💮

a 71-cent stamp, as indicated in the mail-in ballot instructions.

oklahoma 💮

two stamps, or 69 cents if mailed from the post office.

oregon 💮

a seal forever.

pennsylvania

“It’s a little more than a stamp,” said the poll line responder. she warned, “I don’t think you can tell until you weigh it.”

rhode island 💮

That’s three stamps, or $1.45 if sent from the post office.

south carolina 💮

a seal.

south dakota (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“I’m not sure what the standard is.”

tennessee 💮

“hmm… I think a stamp should suffice.”

*texas

in some counties postage is paid, y’all! Others require postage: Lubbock County, for example, instructs that “additional postage will be required if the postage to return the transportation envelope with the attached ticket is more than 1 ounce of first-class postage. Make sure you have the correct postage so your ballot gets to our office! thank you, election office.”

utah ✅ /💮

In many counties, postage is paid. elsewhere, a stamp is enough.

vermont 💮

a seal forever is enough.

virginia 💮

“it’s just a stamp”.

washington ✅

“it’s postage paid for everyone.”

west virginia (¯_(ツ)_/¯)

“ouch. I’m not sure.”

*wisconsin ✅

postage paid!

wyoming

wyoming’s secretary of state suggested that voters contact county officials for postage information. Wyoming County, the state’s largest, said its ballots require a 50-cent stamp.

the secret of the electoral mail of the post office

Unless your postage is paid, or your instructions say how much postage to add, there seems to be no way to know for sure how many stamps your ballot requires, without taking it to the post office.

but there’s good news: if you’re in a hurry, the truth is, in a pinch, you can always put any postage, or even none, and leave it in the mailbox. USPS policy on handling election materials is that individuals must pay the postage, but if for some reason they do not, the ballot must be turned in at the elections office.

according to the “Requirements and Tips for Handling Official Election Mail and Political Campaign Mail” FAQ (original in bold):

this address is repeated later:

update: This post is updated with information submitted by our readers. a * next to the state name indicates that it has been updated.

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