Don’t forget extra postage when you vote by mail

Voters are still confused about how much postage to put on their vote-by-mail ballots.

Here’s the low-down:

If you live in Contra Costa County, it will cost 59 cents to mail your ballot.

In Alameda County and Solano County, a single, first-class stamp will the do the trick.

Why is it different in each county? Because each county designs its own ballot. That process includes the selection of the card stock used for the ballot, which contributes to the weight of the ballot. Other factors include the font size used for the words on the ballot, which will determine the size of the ballot. Some counties have more ballot measures than other counties.

Neither the U.S. Post Office or Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir are particular about what kind of stamps you put on the ballot as long as it adds up to at least 59 cents.In fact, the post office loves it when you paste two first-class stamps on it; they make an extra quarter.

“You would be amazed at how many people place two first-class stamps on their ballot and could care less about the extra postage,” Weir said.   “Then, again, it is amazing how many (not many) place exact postage, a 42-cent plus two eight-cent Eisenhower stamps and a one-cent kestral stamp!   Then, there are those philatilists who place 10 stamps that make up $0.59.”

What happens if you don’t put enough postage of any variation on your ballot? Contra Costa County has a postage due account that will cover the cost, so it won’t get returned to the sender. But the ballot goes into a special pile for hand processing and it  will delay the delivery of your ballot to the election office.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Daniel Abundis

    Unless I was to busy reading all the other instructions, I didn’t see anything about using additional postage. And I reviewed the county elections website and there was no information about additional postage. So will my vote count or not? After learning about this well kept secret.

  • Tom

    There was a one-page flyer included with my ballot that explained the postage. I didn’t have a problem, but I can see with all the paper how it could get lost in the shuffle. Next time it might be better to print it on colored paper (maybe one of those bright fluorescent colors) so it catches one’s attention.

  • steve weir

    We have a postage due account and (in theory), no mail should be delayed due to insufficient postage. However, why risk it? We included a one-half page flyer, BIG PRINT, telling Contra Costa voters that $0.59 in postage is required to return our vote by mail ballots.

    We have an excellent working relationship with the USPS and we are in contact with them, twice a day, to make sure that we are receiving our mail in a timely manner. (We meet with the top execs and manages of the Oakland District before every major election.)

  • Xavier

    The fact that we have such primitive means of voting still baffles me. In other countries electronic voting has been in place for years and has worked without blatant flaws. Plus you get all the results within a few hours.

    Also, can’t they do a usability study before putting together the ballot? Honestly, the information is scattered every where so people easily miss the info…

    Lastly, what is the deal with a *thin* line? As long as the arrow is connected it should work. And it does actually, (I checked with them) but the instructions give you the impression that it must be a *thin* line.

    Anyway, I did not see the postage flyer at first, but I looked for it and found it.

    Thanks for the tip. It proves again that if you want info look on the web…

  • Steve, what would be interesting to know is what is your “cost per voter” at polling places on election day? My guess is that it is higher than 59-cents per polling place voter.

    Voters don’t have to pay anything extra to vote at a polling place, so isn’t the 59-cents an absentee voter has to pay in effect a “tax”?

    What would you do if Contra Costa was to go to all mail ballots? Would you budget be cut (since there would be no costs for all the polling place personnel) or would voters receive “Postage Paid” return envelopes?

  • Kalen

    OK, it SAYS that Alameda’s ballot won’t require extra postage, but when I weighed my ballot, it’s over 1 oz. So theoretically I do need to put extra postage. So I don’t know where the information is coming from. It’s really frustrating. I’m putting extra postage just in case.

  • If the right to vote is of so little importance that you would quibble about 59cents than perhaps you would be better staying home and not voting.

  • Mary VanDerostyne

    Out here in San Joaquin County the postage is covered by the Registrar of Voters, “..if mailed in the United States”. ALL counties should provide this service, in my humble opinion.