A mail-in ballot envelope with an "I Voted" sticker included is pictured in Orange County, California in 2018 (AFP / Robyn Beck)

US Postal Service says it will deliver ballots with insufficient postage

Copyright AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts shared more than 2,000 times just weeks before the US presidential election claim that mail-in ballots require two postage stamps in order to be counted. This is misleading; the United States Postal Service said postage requirements vary from state to state, and that the official policy is to deliver ballots without the correct number of stamps and then collect the missing postage fee from the appropriate local board of elections.

“TWO STAMPS NEEDED FOR MAIL-IN BALLOTS MAKE SURE THIS GETS PASSED ON!!!!!” reads an October 5, 2020 Facebook post.

Screenshot of a Facebook post with a partly false claim, taken on October 14, 2020

More examples are available here and here.

This claim also circulated in multiple pro-Democrat Facebook groups with thousands of followers.

Screenshot of a search using social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, taken on October 14, 2020

USPS spokeswoman Martha Johnson told AFP in an email that the Postal Service “requires election officials to inform voters of the amount of postage required since ballot mail is variable in content and weight,” which impacts postage.

Each state, or local board of election, if authorized, can also opt to provide voters with prepaid postage, she said.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a body that compiles legislation from across the country, found that 17 states require local election authorities to provide return postage for mailed ballots.

“If a return ballot is nevertheless entered into the mailstream with insufficient or unpaid postage, it is the Postal Service’s policy not to delay the delivery of completed mail-in ballots.”

“In cases where a ballot enters the mailstream without the proper amount of postage, the Postal Service will deliver the ballot and thereafter attempt to collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections.”

The Postal Service has published more information about voting by mail here.

Baseless distrust of the mail-in voting system and misinformation about the USPS -- much of it driven by US President Donald Trump himself -- has targeted the agency as the presidential election approaches, with  tens of millions of voters opting for mail-in ballots as an alternative to in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The president continues to claim mail-in voting carries a major risk of fraud. Officials and experts dispute this.

AFP Fact Check has debunked other claims about mail-in voting and the USPS here, here and here.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.
US Elections 2020