What Happens When You Don't Have a Stamp for Your Mail-In Ballot

October 28th 2016

Laura Donovan

Are you planning to vote by mail this election but have no stamps? Don't worry. The U.S. Postal Service has your back.

U.S. Postal Service (USPS) spokesman Gus Ruiz told the San Francisco Chronicle in a new interview that it is a "little known secret" that the USPS will deliver mail-in ballots whether they have the correct amount of postage or no postage at all:

“The Postal Service will always deliver a ballot, whether there is a stamp on it or not. We know how important this mail is, and we want to get it where it belongs as soon as possible.”

Sue Brennan, another USPS spokesperson, told Time in a new interview that any ballots without postage or the appropriate amount of postage will still go through the mail but that the "appropriate office" will be charged:

"Technically, sending mail requires postage. Voters should affix a stamp to their ballot. But, if they do not, the Postal Service will still deliver it and charge the postage to the appropriate office.”

As Ruiz told the Chronicle, "We don’t eat it. The registrars of voters have agreed to reimburse us after the election for insufficient postage."

This can still add up for the registrar's office, though. Joseph Canciamilla, the country clerk for Contra Costa County in California, told the San Francisco Chronicle that his county reimbursed the Postal Service roughly $5,000 after the 2012 election. He said that his county doesn't like to "broadcast" that you can mail without proper postage “because everyone would dump their ballots in the mail” and the cost to the county's registrar's office could go up.

As noted by Time, people voting overseas or through a non-Postal Service facility are exceptions to this rule and have to include the necessary amount of postage on their ballots.

According to a Pew Research Center report published last week, more than four million people have already cast mail-in and absentee ballots. The Pew Research Center also found that nearly 36 percent of total votes in the 2012 election were cast outside of the traditional polling setting on Election Day.

[H/T San Francisco Chronicle]