Lancaster County’s mail ballots require only one stamp to return, the county’s top election official said Monday.
Nearby counties, including Berks and Cumberland, are receiving reports from voters that their post offices are requiring them to pay for extra postage or attach an additional stamp to send the heavier and lengthier municipal mail ballots to their county elections office. Postage is partly determined by the mail’s weight.
All of Lancaster County’s mail ballots for the Nov. 2 Municipal Election are printed on two sheets of paper -- meaning they should all be the same weight -- and only require one First Class stamp to return, said Christa Miller, the county’s chief clerk and registrar for the county Board of Elections.
On Monday, Lancaster County’s Board of Elections received approximately 3,000 completed mail ballots, and Miller estimated that “99.8% of them” had only one stamp. That other 0.2%, she guessed, were from people who routinely attach extra postage when placing their post in the mail.
Even if a voter did not attach the proper amount of postage, it is United States Postal Service policy to deliver the ballot and attempt to collect that postage cost from the county Board of Elections at a later date, a USPS spokesperson told LNP | LancasterOnline earlier this year.
“Any mail would always make it to us,” Miller added. “Because it’s election mail, it will never get sent back to the voter. It will always get delivered to us.”
In a text message to voters, the Department of State nudged voters to return their mail ballots as soon as possible to reach their local election office by Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. The text message also reminded voters to attach proper postage, adding “it might take two stamps!”
Lancaster County had first-hand experience with postage issues in May’s primary election. The county’s previous vendor attached incorrect voting instructions for 2,700 voters. That vendor, now known as Plerus, accidentally attached mail ballot instructions intended for Delaware County voters. Delaware County did not require voters to add postage to their return envelopes, while Lancaster County did.
Plerus accepted responsibility for the error -- and several other errors that eventually led to a hand transfer of 12,600 mail ballots. The county severed its contract with the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based company earlier this year. Lancaster County now contracts with NPC Inc., a Blair County-based printer. The county already uses NPC Inc. to print its ballots used for in-person voting on Election Day.
Voters must apply for a mail ballot by next Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. to receive a mail ballot for the upcoming municipal election. Voters who apply for a mail ballot close to that deadline are encouraged to return their ballot in-person to the county Board of Elections drop box at the Chestnut Street entrance to the Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St., Lancaster. Mail ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.
The drop box is available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 27, and until 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 28, and 29. It will be available from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 30; from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1; and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 2.
County officials are reminding voters that the Pennsylvania Election Code states that each voter may only return his or her own mail ballot.