Jul 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Klobuchar introduces election mail bill

Illustrated collage of a hand casting a ballot with a mailbox and laptop in the background
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), head of the Senate Rules Committee, has introduced legislation to improve the delivery of election mail and ensure voters don’t have to pay to return ballots.

Why it matters: In the wake of Congress' repeated failure to enact sweeping election reform this year, this narrower piece of legislation is an effort to do bite-sized pieces of election administration reform.

The details: The bill — the Election Mail Act — would codify First-Class service standards for all election mail, require the U.S. Postal Service to postmark all ballots and ensure voters and election officials don't have to pay or pre-pay for postage on ballots.

  • It would also require states to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by election day and arrive within seven day after the election, while permitting states to have deadlines of more than seven days.

The big picture: Currently, 18 states and D.C. require local election officials to provide return postage while Congress reimburses USPS for ballots of overseas and military voters.

  • Under the new legislation, USPS would similarly be reimbursed for returning domestic mail-in ballots.
  • There are a smattering of different state laws dictating when mailed ballots musts by postmarked and received by.

What they're saying: "All of these things are practices that the post office has long used for election mail, but it needs to have the force of law, and it needs to be fair for all voters," former counsel for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Stephen Spaulding told Axios.

  • "This is straight up good election administration. There are no poison pills in there that should turn off Republicans who are approaching this with good faith. Republicans vote by mail, Democrats vote by mail, independents vote by mail."
  • “Millions of Americans use mail-in voting because it is a simple, accessible way to make their voices heard. That’s why it’s critical that election mail is delivered and processed in a timely manner and no voter has to pay for postage to cast a ballot,” Klobuchar said in a statement shared with Axios.
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