Virginia Members Request Commitment That Ballots Will be Postmarked

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Fairfax, VA, October 8, 2020 | comments

Today, Representative Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee, and Representatives Scott, Beyer, McEachin, and Wexton sent letters to Virginia USPS postal managers on the frontlines of election mail operations to ensure all ballots their facilities receive through November 3, 2020 are properly postmarked. The United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General recently identified accurate postmarking as critical to the successful processing of election mail for the 2020 general elections.

 

“We write to seek your assistance in ensuring that all eligible Virginians who timely cast a ballot are able to exercise their rights to vote this November. Specifically, we ask that all absentee/vote by mail ballot return envelopes coming through your local post offices be postmarked through November 3, 2020,” the members wrote.

 

Under Virginia law, absentee/vote by mail ballots that are received after Tuesday, November 3rd — Election Day — are validly cast so long as the ballot return envelope is postmarked by Election Day and received by local registrars no later than noon on Friday, November 6th.

 

“We must protect the franchise of all Virginians who wish to cast a ballot by mail. If ballot return envelopes are not postmarked, they risk being invalidated through no fault of the voter,” the members added. “Accordingly, we seek a commitment from your office that absentee/vote by mail ballot return envelopes sent by voters in Virginia through November 3, 2020, will be postmarked.”

 

As of September 28, 2020, at least 972,000 Virginians have requested or cast absentee/vote by mail ballots, nearly four times more the total number of absentee/vote by mail ballots requested or cast in the 2016 election. 

 

The letters are available here. Text follows. 

 

Dear [Postal Manager]:


As members of the Virginia delegation, we write to seek your assistance in ensuring that all eligible Virginians who timely cast a ballot are able to exercise their rights to vote this November. Specifically, we ask that all absentee/vote by mail ballot return envelopes coming through your local post offices be postmarked through November 3, 2020.

 

We are encouraged by the September 25, 2020 U.S. Postal Service (USPS) memo “Additional Resources for Election mail Beginning October 1,” in particular, the Postal Service’s commitment that “our number one priority is the proper handling and timely delivery of all Election Mail, especially ballots.” The U.S. Postal Service will play a critical role in election administration this year. Because of the global pandemic, millions of Virginians are expected to rely on the Postal Service to exercise their rights to vote through absentee/vote by mail ballots.  We must get this right.

            

As of September 28, 2020, at least 972,000 Virginians have requested or cast absentee/vote by mail ballots, nearly four times more the total number of absentee/vote by mail ballots requested or cast in the 2016 election. There are fewer than 30 days remaining in the early voting period in Virginia, and the absentee/vote by mail ballot share this year is expected to account for a substantial portion of the total Virginia electorate. 

 

We must protect the franchise of all Virginians who wish to cast a ballot by mail. If ballot return envelopes are not postmarked, they risk being invalidated through no fault of the voter. Under Virginia law, absentee/vote by mail ballots that are received after Tuesday, November 3rd — Election Day — are validly cast so long as the ballot return envelope is postmarked by Election Day and received by local registrars no later than noon on Friday, November 6th. We are not aware of any policy by the United States Postal Service or Virginia regional postmasters to postmark election-related mail and/or ballot return envelopes. As a result, ballot return envelopes arriving at local registrar offices without postmarks may be invalidated, even if voters validly sent these ballots on or before Election Day as required by Virginia law.  

 

Accordingly, we seek a commitment from your office that absentee/vote by mail ballot return envelopes sent by voters in Virginia through November 3, 2020, will be postmarked. Your assistance will ensure that all eligible Virginians who vote on time as required by law can cast a ballot and have their vote count.  

 

We appreciate all the work that you do. Given the urgency of this issue, we request that you respond to this letter no later than October 12, 2020 with a commitment to postmark all mail in ballots.

 

Sincerely,

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