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VERIFY: Yes, election officials said this USPS voting postcard is misleading

The Verify team was asked to look into a postcard sent out by the USPS. Local election officials said that there were inconsistencies with their guidelines.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Did the guidance on a USPS postcard match the guidance from local election officials regarding voting deadlines?

ANSWER:

No.

In a statement, USPS told the Verify team that this was meant to offer "general all-purpose guidance," and not state-specific guidance. The disconnect between USPS guidance and local guidance prompted some state leaders across the nation to call the postcards misleading.

To read local guidance for DC, Maryland, and Virginia, scroll to the bottom section of this article. 

SOURCE:

USPS Statement

DC Board of Elections, "Vote Absentee" Page

MD State Board of Elections, "Mail-In Voting" Page

VA Department of Elections, "Absentee and Early Voting" Page

The Office of CO Secretary of State, Jena Griswold

PROCESS: 

The United States Postal Service sent out a postcard mailer across the country to offer tips for voting-by-mail. The mailer was greeted with criticism from many state leaders. including Secretary of States in Vermont, California, Nevada, and Colorado, who considered the postcard misleading. 

"If you plan to vote by mail, plan ahead," the postcard reads in large letters on the front. 

On the back of the postcard, USPS listed five checklist items, including deadlines for when people should request a mail-in ballot and when they should send in their ballots. 

RELATED: USPS postcard has 'inconsistent' voting deadlines, state election officials say

Credit: WUSA9
The postcard from USPS has been criticized for being misleading by state leaders across the country.


Jena Griswold, the Secretary of State in Colorado, filed a lawsuit against USPS due to the postcard. This resulted in a federal judge issuing a temporary restraining order, which stopped the sending of these postcards until after a hearing on Friday. 

"It's important that our election messaging to Colorado voters be clear and consistent," her office told the Verify team in a statement.

The Maryland Board of Elections also expressed their concerns with the postcard, in a statement sent to the Verify team. 

"Portions of the postcard message are inconsistent with Maryland vote-by-mail guidelines," the statement read in part. 

As for USPS, they sent the following response to the Verify team when asked for comment: 

“The intention of the mailer was to send a single set of recommendations that provided general guidance allowing voters who choose mail-in voting to do so successfully, regardless of where they live and where they vote.  Each state has its own approaches, rules, and deadlines and we provide the following link for voters to determine their local relevant information: usps.com/votinginfo.  Our mailer was intended to be general all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state rules.”

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, a Maryland mail collection box was temporarily out of order after suspected mail theft

How the Postcard Differs With Guidance in DC, Maryland, and Virginia:

Requesting A Ballot, USPS Tip:

"Request Your mail-in ballot (often called 'absentee ballot') at least 15 days before Election Day"

Actual Local Guidance:

This tip recommends that voters request a mail-in ballot at least 15 days before Election Day, which would be Oct.19. This date differs from local deadlines. 

In Maryland, requests for mail-in ballots need to be received by Oct. 20. In Virginia, these requests need to be received by Oct. 23. 

Sending a request in the mail on Oct. 19, as outlined in the USPS guidance would not guarantee that the vote-by-mail request would arrive at the registrar in time. 

In D.C., voters do not need to request a vote-by-mail ballot, because they are automatically sent to all registered voters, starting the first week of October. 

Sending In Ballot, USPS Tip:

"We recommend you mail your ballot at least seven days before the election."

Actual Local Guidance:

The USPS recommendation is that voters send in their ballot at least seven days before the election, which would be Oct. 27. Local election leaders emphasize that voters should send in their ballots as soon as possible, to ensure they are counted. 

However, the actual cutoff deadline for sending in a ballot in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia is later than the mailer suggested.

In D.C. and Maryland, vote-by-mail ballots will be accepted so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, and are received by Nov. 13, ten days later. 

In Virginia, vote-by-mail ballots will be accepted, so long as they were postmarked on Nov. 3, and received by Nov. 6. 

To read more about voting by mail in DC, click here

To read more about voting by mail in Maryland, click here

To read more about voting by mail in Virginia, click here

RELATED: USPS postcard has 'inconsistent' voting deadlines, state election officials say

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