USPS Reminds About Political and Election Mail

It’s that time again: politicians hoping to get into (or stay in) office are trying to reach voters to garner their support, and are still turning to the mail as the medium for their message.

Of course, those candidates and their staffs – as during every election cycle – will want the mailing service company to get their mailings out first and the Postal Service to give them expedited handling, all the while asking for credit until after the election to pay the mailing company’s bill.

To assure that commercial mailers understand the finer points of political and election mail, the USPS published an article in the February 13 Postal Bulletin reminding everyone involved of the necessary details.

The terms “election mail” and “political mail” may be used interchangeably in casual conversation but, in fact, they have specific and different meanings that define the respective mailing standards.

 

Election Mail

Election Mail is any item mailed to or from authorized election officials that enables citizens to participate in the voting process, such as balloting materials, voter registration cards, absentee applications, and polling place notifications.

Election mail has specific requirements for preparation and mailing. For example, election officials are required to indicate in a prominent location on the return mailpiece the proper amount of First-Class Mail postage that must be applied to balloting materials for any election. (An exception may apply in certain circumstances for balloting materials for military and overseas voters or where postage is prepaid.) Mail producers should refer to Publication 631, Official Election Mail — Graphic Guidelines and Logos, for the details about the marking and logos to be used for election mail.

Tag 191, Domestic and International Ballots, is used to identify trays and sacks of ballot mail destined for either domestic or international addresses. The tag provides greater visibility to ballot mail during USPS handling, and is for use only on qualified election mail.

 

Political Mail

Political Mail includes Political Campaign Mail and Political Message Mail.

Political Campaign Mail is any material mailed at First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail prices for political campaign purposes by a registered political candidate, a campaign committee (federal, state, or local), or a committee of a political party (e.g., Democratic National Committee or Republican Congressional Campaign Committee) to promote political candidates, referendums, or political campaigns.

Political Message Mail is any material mailed at First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail prices by a political action committee (PAC), super-PAC, or other organizations engaging in campaign activity, issue advocacy, or voter mobilization. Political Mail may be sent for any public election – partisan or nonpartisan – for which there is a ballot. Political Mail is identified using red Tag 57, Political Campaign Mailing.

Tag 57 is used to identify Political Mail while it’s in the mailstream. Tag 57 can be used in a Political Campaign Mailing by a registered political candidate, campaign committee, and committee of a political party; or in a Political Message Mailing by a PAC, super-PAC, or other organization engaging in issue advocacy or voter mobilization. According to the Postal Operations Manual, a “registered political candidate or party” is defined as an individual or organization recognized by a government election control authority (national, state, or local).

Resources

The USPS stated that it carried 42.4 million ballots for the 2018 midterm election, approximately 71.6% of which were returned by voters. Given the growing use of vote-by-mail and other practices, the Postal Service anticipates even more ballots will be sent and returned using the mail this year.

To assist both election and political mailers and the service providers they engage, the USPS has designated an individual in each area (see grid below) and district to serve as a point of contact for official information and support. In addition, election officials and political campaign staff are urged to consult with a mailpiece design analyst when designing items to preclude problems when they’re presented to a mail producer or the USPS.

Information about the correct STID to use can be found at about.usps.com/kits/kit600.pdf#page=9. Details of the relevant mailing standards for balloting materials can be found in the Domestic Mail Manual (703.8).

More information on political and election mail will also be available in the June Mailers Hub webinar, "All About Political Mail".

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