A New Clash Over Mail Voting: The Cost of the Postage

“In many cases, certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots may be incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards, especially if election officials use marketing mail to send blank ballots to voters,” Ms. Johnson said. “Using marketing mail will result in slower delivery times and will increase the risk that voters will not receive their ballots in time to return them by mail.”

Democrats and their allies have grown deeply distrustful of Mr. DeJoy’s intentions during his short tenure leading the post office, where he has tried to slash expenses in ways that have led to slowdowns and questions about the Postal Service’s ability to handle a much greater volume of mail ballots in a timely way this year.

Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Mr. Schumer was “absolutely right in raising alarm.”

“This year, where voting by mail is going to be crucial, it is alarming to make these cuts and suggest to state and local governments that they pay for expedited service when our democracy is relying on this,” Ms. Gupta said. “It’s hard not to see this as a political move by the Trump administration.”

Shifting to first-class mail could impact the budgets of some local governments, depending on what mailing system they currently use, elections experts said Tuesday.

Whether states or voters pay to return their mail-in ballots to election officials, those ballots are returned via first-class mail. Many states already use the first-class service to send ballots to voters, but some, particularly Western states, moved to standard mail for the outbound trip to citizens as their vote-by-mail populations burgeoned.

For years, the Postal Service has pushed for states to use the first-class rate, but amid the pandemic, those calls have become louder, according to Tammy Patrick, senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan grant-making foundation focused on elections and governance.

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