Ohio: Cuyahoga County elections officials find 250 ballots should have counted as plan to fix broken voting system stalls | Akron Beacon Journal

Elections officials in Cuyahoga County have discovered that 250 invalidated votes should have counted in Ohio’s last statewide election. But the discovery, which other counties can duplicate for about $500, will not change how Ohio runs the upcoming presidential election without action from state leaders. In a post-election analysis, Sean Webster of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reviewed roughly 1,500 absentee ballots that arrived after the polls closed on Nov. 2. About 900 lacked postmarks, which would clearly state when the ballots were mailed. Another 563 were postmarked too late. All were tossed out. Statewide, about half of 7,244 late-arriving ballots lacked postmarks. “Proportionally,” Webster said of the same issue in Summit County, “we had significantly fewer ballots that needed thrown out. And we think that’s because we use a smaller envelope.”

Ohio: Postal Service to develop policy for postmarking absentee ballots after concerns raised about discounted ballots in Summit County | Akron Beacon Journal

The U.S. Postal Service will develop a policy on postmarking absentee ballots in light of concerns raised this week by Summit County elections officials about nearly 900 ballots discounted because they lacked postmarks. “We will be talking to the Ohio Secretary of State to reach a mutual understanding of acceptable postmarks for absentee ballots and develop a uniform policy addressing all concerns to help prevent this from happening again,” David Van Allen, a postal spokesman, said Thursday in a written statement.

Voting Blogs: Plenty to watch during ‘off-year’ election – U.S. Postal Service may play biggest role in 2015 | electionlineWeekly

While the focus of many Americans — well, at least the American media — seems to be on the election that is still more than year away, elections officials across the country are gearing up for state and local elections next week on November 3. Just because this isn’t the big show 2016 will be doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on as voters in more than half of the states will head to the polls in some capacity on Tuesday. We’ve been watching the news in the months leading up to November 3 and these are some of the stories we think are worth watching. By far, we think the biggest story for the 2015 elections will be voting by mail—whether it’s casting an absentee ballot or a vote-by-mail ballot. In the days leading up to the election, the U.S. Postal Service and elections officials in numerous states have urged voters to get their mail ballots posted even before this newsletter hits your inbox.

Colorado: County clerks worry about mail-ballot delays, urge voters to use dropoff boxes | The Gazette

Delays by the U.S. Postal Service trapped some El Paso County election ballots in a cycle between Denver and Colorado Springs this month, with some ballots reaching voters days after they were sent. Issues with barcoding delayed roughly 10,000 ballots statewide, and prompted Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Tuesday to issue a plea to voters to not drop their mail-in ballots in a Postal Service box, less they get lost in a similar cycle. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office joined the state by instructing voters to bring their ballots straight to the ballot box to make sure they get counted. But a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said on Tuesday that voters should have no concerns about dropping their completed ballots in the mail. Spokesman David Rupert said that the delays were minor, and ultimately millions of ballots were delivered on time – a statistic that bodes well for return ballots, he added.

Voting Blogs: OIG report recommends USPS develop Vote by Mail strategy | electionlineWeekly

The U.S. Postal Service is the largest self-funded agency of the U.S. government and is supported entirely by revenue from postage and products. Because of that, unlike most federal agencies that are always looking for ways to cut costs, the Postal Service is also always looking for ways to boost revenue. Therefore, with the increasing popularity of vote-by-mail, the Office of the Inspector General of the USPS (USPSOIG) set out to evaluate voting methods to identify opportunities to increase voting by mail and therefore revenues for an agency that has struggled under budget constraints and the changing mailing habits of Americans.

National: USPS could boost revenue, voter turnout by promoting mail-in voting, IG says | FierceGovernment

The Postal Service could both generate revenue and help voter turnout by working with states to promote mail-in voting, says an Aug. 4 USPS inspector general report. Although traditional poll voting is still the most popular method, the report (pdf) says, voting by mail is increasing across broad segments of the American electorate. In the 2014 midterm federal election, 25 percent of voters cast ballots by mail — an increase of 3.5 percent over the 2012 presidential election.

Iowa: Senate likely to take up absentee voting change | Quad City Times

Although it was approved on a largely party-line vote in the GOP-controlled House, a bill changing the deadline for Iowa voters to return their absentee ballots likely will be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate. House Democrats were unanimous in opposing House File 506, arguing it that will disenfranchise voters who wait until the end of the 40-day voting period to mail in their ballots. “It’s a sad day in Iowa,” said Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, who said if the law had been in effect in 2014, more than 3,000 votes would not have been counted. “Voters who did what was right. They voted. They did their patriotic duty … and we’re going to tell them their vote doesn’t count.” The final vote was 56-41, with one Republican voting “no.”

National: The pros and cons of all-mail elections, as told by two Republican secretaries of state | The Washington Post

Weeks before Election Day, every registered voter in Oregon, Washington and Colorado got a ballot in the mail. They didn’t have to sign up, and no one had to make any special plans to head to out-of-the-way polling places within a specific window: Elections in those three states are conducted entirely by mail. It’s a controversial practice: Democrats who passed legislation creating all-mail elections say they help boost participation, especially for those who have to work on Election Day. Some Republicans say it’s a transparent attempt to tip the scales toward Democratic candidates, and that it’s ripe for fraud and abuse. But the Republican view on all-mail elections isn’t uniform: Kim Wyman (R), Washington’s secretary of state, is a big fan. Scott Gessler (R), Colorado’s secretary of state, isn’t.

Colorado: Mail-In Voting Gets Early Test | Wall Street Journal

A new election system using all mail-in ballots faces an immediate test in Colorado, with tight Senate, House and gubernatorial races that are being closely watched nationally. Hoping to boost turnout, the Democrat-led legislature here passed a law a year ago requiring Colorado to use mail-in ballots in virtually all elections. Some Republicans, including the secretary of state, have voiced concern about mandating the system statewide, saying that relying so heavily on the postal service could cause problems, especially for rural voters. Democrats have said that the two other states with all-mail elections, Washington and Oregon, have experienced few problems. Colorado voters can still drop off ballots at designated voting centers. They can also fill out a ballot at the centers and even register there on Election Day. But the idea is for most ballots to be mailed in. County clerks have to receive a ballot by 7 p.m. on Tuesday for it to count. A ballot postmarked but not received by that time isn’t valid. “The reason we did this was just to modernize our system and make it easier for people to vote and stay in the process,” said the state House majority leader, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat from Boulder. “You have a lot of people who have a very difficult time just showing up on Election Day and casting their ballot.”

California: Heavy ballots may need extra postage; still getting delivered to elections office | Redding Searchlight

Blame the October moisture. But some Shasta County voters are paying an extra 21 cents in postage — this on top of the 49-cent stamp — to mail their absentee ballots. Voters who have mailed their ballot with 49-cent postage only, fear not. The ballots — no matter that they are slightly heavier than in the bone-dry summer — will get to the Shasta County Elections Office by Nov. 4. Cathy Darling Allen, county clerk and registrar of voters, said the U.S. Postal Service will still deliver, and her office is picking up the difference for any extra postage. “They already know about this issue,” she said of the postal service. “They understand that the purple and green ballots” are being dropped off “and they get them to us as fast as they can.” To date, the elections office has mailed 61,741 ballots and 14,675 ballots have been returned.

Texas: Postal Service Woes Affect Voting | Texas Election Law Blog

State and federal legislation and rules about voter registration and absentee balloting treat the U.S. Postal Service as an institution of undiminished vitality and efficiency; capable of delivering election-related mail swiftly and unerringly. Meanwhile, the actual (as opposed to utopian) Postal Service is a wounded, diminished entity. Hemorrhaging money, hounded by critics, and damaged by privatization, competition, and fundamental shifts in the ways that people communicate with each other, the Postal Service is fighting for survival. Niceties and services in support of elections have suffered as a consequence. For example, the Postal Service no longer accommodates the State’s use of a generic postage-paid statewide voter registration application. The reason? Because mail sorting is automated, and because the Postal Service has shrunk in size, the post office will no longer allow the State to benefit from a postage-paid card that has to be re-routed to one of 254 destination counties.

Texas: Postal Delivery Concerns After Carrier Returns Mail | CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Officials with the United States Postal Service say they have fired a North Texas mail carrier for skipping part of his route and not delivering a significant amount of mail by simply marking the letters and packages ‘return to sender.’ A number of items returned included voter registration cards and that’s now caused concern for Dallas County elections officials. A single voter’s complaint led the Dallas County Elections Department to investigate and discover the post office delivery issue. On Tuesday Dallas County Commissioners heard from elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. She told city leaders that a City Carrier Assistant working in Irving had been cutting his route short and stamping undelivered mail return to sender. Apparently the mail carrier was doing this at the same time that voter registration cards were going out.

National: DOD Seeks to Modernize Mail Delivery of Election Materials | Defense.gov

A multiagency effort is underway to modernize the mail delivery system to improve delivery of election materials to military and overseas voters, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program said here today. Matt Boehmer testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on how the Defense Department is improving ballot accessibility. “The Military Postal Service Agency is serving as the lead agency in an effort with the Department of State and the United States Postal Service to lead an effort to modernize military mail delivery,” he said. Boehmer said the department recognized the time required to redirect mail once it has arrived overseas hinders the ability to cast an absentee ballot. “The system will redirect election material to military and diplomatic addresses similar to how the civilian change-of-address system works,” he said, noting it should be available in October. Boehmer noted Congress and the judicial system repeatedly have affirmed that voting is a citizen’s most fundamental right. “The Federal Voting Assistance Program is committed to two voting assistance tenets: promoting the awareness of the right to vote, and eliminating barrier for those who choose to exercise that right,” he said.

Colorado: Democrats nix GOP bills dealing with mail ballots | Associated Press

Democrats on Monday rejected proposals from Colorado Republicans that would make mail ballots optional and allow anyone to challenge votes cast by mail. The bills failed Monday on 3-2 party-line votes in a Senate committee. Last year, Democrats passed an election-law overhaul that, among other things, allowed voter registration on Election Day and required mail ballots for every registered voter. Republicans have criticized the election changes and have expressed concerns over possible fraud. They have pledged to try this year to address portions of the new election rules or try to undo them. But with Democrats controlling both legislative chambers, they will be facing long odds. That was apparent Monday with a couple of the bills they argued for, and the Republican sponsors saw the fate of their proposals coming.

Editorials: A setback for election integrity | The Denver Post

Last year, the Pew Center for the States released a report titled “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade.” Among other things, it revealed that “almost 2.7 million people appear to be registered in two states, and more than 70,000 people could be registered in three or more.” The Colorado legislature isn’t helping matters with House Bill 1303, which has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature. The bill requires mail ballots be sent to all registered voters, whether they’ve cast ballots in recent elections or not — and halted when the ballot is returned or the state learns through other checks that someone has moved or died. One critical backstop is the National Change of Address file maintained by the Postal Service. But in an era in which snail mail is rapidly losing its relevance, particularly for young adults, that file is hardly comprehensive. And yet as Pew points out, “Census numbers from 2009 reveal one in four adults ages 25 to 34 changed residences.” So what happens in homes where, say, a 20-something takes a job in another state? The ballots could just keep on coming.

National: Congress votes to force USPS to keep Saturday delivery | Chicago Tribune

Congress foiled the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service’s plan to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail when it passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery. The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, said last month it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually. Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service. The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around.

Oregon: End to Saturday mail delivery could squeeze Oregon’s vote-by-mail | OregonLive.com

Oregon voters might not have as much time to peruse their ballots if the Postal Service succeeds in eliminating Saturday mail delivery.
Currently, many Oregon voters receive their ballot on Saturday, 17 days before an election.  That could be pushed two days later, to Monday, under the Postal Service’s plans. Ending Saturday mail delivery can also affect ballot returns.  Elections officials might reconsider their recommendation that voters mail back their ballots no later than the Friday before an election, said Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout. “We’ve been talking about ways we can change our business model to work best with their new business model,” said Trout.

Washington: Saturday mail delivery set to end | The Olympian

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will end Saturday home mail service for first-class mail, a move that is expected to save the financially strapped agency $2 billion. The decision to cut Saturday service is set to take effect Aug. 5. No first-class mail means letters, magazines, advertising mail, catalogs, newspapers and Netflix DVDs will not be delivered on Saturdays, regional Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson said. Parcels will be delivered on Saturdays, and those who have a post office box will still get their mail, he said. “We are simply not in a financial position where we can maintain six days of mail delivery,” Postmaster General and Chief Executive Patrick Donahoe said. “The ease of online bill payments has led to the decline of first-class mail volume since 2008, a major blow to the institution.” In the past fiscal year, the Postal Service has seen a financial loss of $15.9 billion.

Voting Blogs: No Mail on Saturdays? Election Officials Consider the Impact | Election Academy

Yesterday, the U.S. Postal Service announced that beginning in August, it will stop home collection and delivery of mail on Saturdays in an effort to keep itself afloat despite mounting financial losses. The story is notable in itself – as I’ve already seen in numerous pieces, the USPS has the potential to touch every home in America six days a week – but the impact is especially keen in the elections field, where growing reliance on vote-by-mail and absentee ballots has made election officials and the Post Office partners in the delivery and receipt of ballots. In the Pacific Northwest, where voters in Oregon and Washington now vote completely by mail, state officials are already making plans to cope if the USPS goes through with the plan to end Saturday service.

National: Hurricane Sandy Brings Obstacles Before Election | NYTimes.com

Hurricane Sandy spurred Maryland to suspend its early voting program for a second day on Tuesday and forced the closing of some early voting sites in battleground states like North Carolina and Virginia. But the bigger question that many state and county elections officials in storm-battered states were asking themselves was how to get ready for Election Day next week. The obstacles are formidable. More than 8.2 million households were without power by midday Tuesday, with more than a fifth of them in swing states — a potential problem in an age when the voting process, which once consisted of stuffing paper ballots into boxes, has been electrified. Roads were impassable in some states, and mass transportation was hobbled in others. And Postal Service disruptions threatened to slow the delivery of absentee ballots to election boards.

National: Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day | NBC

In states that rely largely or entirely on vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, a pre-Nov. 6 disruption of mail delivery caused by the U.S. Postal Service’s fiscal crisis would be a fiasco for voters and election officials. With partisan battles already under way on voter eligibility across the nation over fears of voter fraud and charges of vote suppression, the last thing the upcoming election needs is another procedural snafu. Washington and Oregon voters cast their ballots entirely by mail or at local drop boxes, and in California’s June primary, nearly two out of three voters cast their ballots by mail. Even in states where voters still show up in person to vote at their local precinct, absentee voting by mail is common. In order for the election to take place, the mail must get delivered promptly – no matter how dire the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis is – and it’s dire indeed. In the second quarter of its fiscal year (January to March) the Postal Service lost $3.2 billion. Congressional postal experts will be scrutinizing its third-quarter financial statement on Aug. 9 to see if the distress has worsened. While the Senate has passed a reform bill to keep the Postal Service afloat, the House hasn’t yet acted. Urging the House to move, one of the Senate reform leaders, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday “Only one week from now, the Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion payment to Treasury – further eroding the confidence of the millions of customers and businesses” that rely on mail to get delivered.

National: Postal Service to suspend closures during election season | The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service plans to suspend its planned closure of processing facilities and post offices during the November election season in response to concerns from state officials that the delivery of absentee or mail-in ballots might be lost or delayed in the shuffle. Postal officials announced plans last month to proceed with closing or consolidating at least 223 processing centers in the coming years in hopes of saving billions of dollars. USPS also plans to close thousands of post offices in the coming years in mostly rural communities. But state officials in Arizona, California, Ohio and Oregon, among others, complained that the changes could confuse voters accustomed to mailing ballots close to mail-in deadlines or Election Day.