Will I Have to Pay for Mail-in Voting? These States Will Cover Your Postage

As voting by mail becomes more widespread because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering whether you'll be expected to cover the cost of postage.

According to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), unless your state or local election official provides a prepaid return envelope with your ballot, Americans have to ensure that the appropriate postage is paid. However, there are 17 states that have statutes requiring local election officials to provide return postage for mailed ballots.

Which States Pay for Mail-in Vote Postage?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the following States have rules in place to ensure mail-in votes postage is covered during U.S. elections.

Arizona: The county recorder or other officer in charge of elections shall mail the early ballot and the envelope for its return postage prepaid to the address provided by the requesting elector. This is taken from A.R.S 16-542.

California: The elections official shall deliver all of the following to each qualified applicant—this includes all supplies necessary for the use and return of the ballot, including an identification envelope with prepaid postage for the return of the vote by mail ballot. Taken from West's Ann. Cal. Elect. Code 3010

Delaware: Postage for all mailings made pursuant to this subsection shall be prepaid by the Department. Taken from 15 Del. Code 5504.

Hawaii: The mailed distribution and return of absentee ballots shall be at no cost to the voter. The State and counties shall share in the cost of all postage associated with the distribution and return of absentee. Taken from HRS 11-182.

Idaho: The clerk shall issue a ballot by mail to every registered voter in a mail ballot precinct and shall affix postage to the return envelope sufficient to return the ballot. Taken from I.C. 34-308.

Iowa: The absentee ballot and affidavit envelope shall be enclosed in or with an unsealed return envelope marked postage paid which bears the same serial number as the affidavit envelope. Taken from I.C.A. 53.8.

Maryland: The ballot/return envelope described... provided to a voter voting by absentee ballot shall include prepaid postage. MD Code, Election Law, 9-310.

Minnesota: Ballot return envelopes, with return postage provided, must be pre-addressed to the auditor or clerk and the voter may return the ballot by mail or in-person to the office of the auditor or clerk. Taken from M.S.A 203B.07.

Missouri: Mailing envelopes for use in returning ballots shall be printed with business reply permits so that any ballot returned by mail does not require postage. All fees and costs for establishing and maintaining the business reply and postage-free mail for all ballots cast shall be paid by the secretary of state through state appropriations. Taken from V.A.M.S. 115.285.

Nevada: The return envelope sent pursuant to subsection 1 must include postage prepaid by first-class mail if the absent voter is within the boundaries of the U.S., its territories or possessions or on a military base. Taken from Nev. Rev. Stat. 293.323.

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Stock image: Which states cover mail-in and absentee postage? iStock

New Mexico: Taken from N.M. State Ann. 1-6-8. The secretary of state shall prescribe the form of, procure and distribute to each county clerk a supply of:

  • Official inner envelopes for use in sealing the completed mailed ballot
  • Official mailing envelopes for use in returning the official inner envelope to the county clerk, which shall be postage-paid—provided that only the official mailing envelope for absentee ballots in a political party primary shall contain a designation of party affiliation

Oregon: For each election held in this state, electors shall be provided with a return identification envelope that may be returned by business reply mail. The state shall bear the cost of complying with this subsection. Taken from SB 861 in 2019.

Rhode Island: Upon the ballots becoming available, the secretary of state shall immediately issue and mail, by first-class mail, postage prepaid, a mail ballot to each eligible voter who has been certified. With respect to voters who have applied for these mail ballots under the provisions 17-20-2(1), the secretary of state shall include with the mail ballots a stamped, return envelope addressed to the board of elections. Taken from R.I. Gen. Laws 17-20-10.

Virginia: If the application has been properly completed... the general registrar shall send the following items—an envelope, properly addressed and postage prepaid, for the teturn of the absentee ballot. Taken from Va. Code. 24.2-706.

Washington: Return envelopes for all election ballots must include prepaid postage. Taken from West's RCWA 29A.40.091.

West Virginia: Within one day after the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting has both the completed application and the ballot, the official shall mail to the voter at the address given on the application the following items as required and as prescribed by the Secretary of State—One postage paid envelope, unsealed, designated "Absent Voter's Ballot Envelope No. 2..." Taken from W. Va. Code. 3-3-5.

Wisconsin: If the ballot is mailed, and the ballot qualifies for mailing free of postage under federal free postage laws, the clerk shall affix the appropriate legend required by U.S. postal regulations. Otherwise, the clerk shall pay the postage required for return when the ballot is mailed from within the United States. If the ballot is not mailed by the absentee elector from within the United States, the absentee elector shall provide return postage. Taken from W.S.A. 6.87.

Additionally, Pennsylvania has announced that it will cover mail-in and absentee voting postage for the 2020 U.S. Presidental election. Eligible voters can apply for their mail-in or absentee ballot online, in person at their county election offices or by paper forms submitted by mail.

If your state is not covered above, you can check with the U.S. Vote Foundation for each state and local requirement for mail-in and absentee voting.

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