About that new mailbox rule

Here in Oregon, where everyone votes by mail (even the dead people), there's a new timing rule this year for the elections. If the ballot has a "postal indicator showing that the ballot was mailed not later than the date of the election," and it's "received at the office of the county clerk not later than seven calendar days after the date of the election," it counts. Previously, the county had to have your completed ballot in hand by 8:00 on Election Night in order for it to count.

And so if a race is really close, we may not know the outcome for a week or so. But that's no big deal. We've waited for final election results for longer periods of time than that before.

No, what I'm a little concerned about is the new business about the ballot having to have a "postal indicator" – that is, a postmark – of the date of the election or earlier. Nowadays, the state pays the postage on your ballot, and it doesn't take a stamp:

That being the case, will the Post Office even bother to postmark it? I wouldn't be surprised if some ballots get delivered after Election Day with no postmarks on them. Will they count? As I read the law, they won't.

Knowing Oregon's rule, maybe our local DeJoy boys will be smart enough to postmark all the ballots, even though there's no stamp to be cancelled. But what about post offices outside Oregon? One of the good things about vote-by-mail is that every mail collection box in the country is a potential voting booth. Will postmasters in other states simply forward the ballots to Oregon without postmarks?

I remember this happening with mail from the IRS. Some important deadlines in tax law are measured from the date on which the IRS mails a notice to a taxpayer. But the IRS mails it in an envelope that doesn't need postage, and at least when I was worrying about such things years ago, the envelope often didn't get postmarked. You couldn't tell when the deadline really was; you had to guess, which was dangerous business.

Anyway, I'm not relying on the mailbox rule with my ballot, at least not this time around. I think I'll take a walk or ride and drop it into an actual ballot drop box, as I usually do. 


  1. Jack,
    I’m guessing the Post Office can probably encode a date into those little fluorescent orange bar codes you see from time to time on on the bottom edge on the back of letter mail.

  2. FWIW, I put my ballot in the outgoing mail receptacle at my apt. complex yesterday (Monday 5/16) for 4 pm-ish pick up, and at 10am today (5/17) I got a notification from Multco BallotTrax that my ballot had been accepted and counted. Mail never moves that fast in PDX, so it makes me think the postal service is bypassing some of their processing and delivering directly to the Elections office? Normally I physically take my ballot to the drop location, but just couldn't justify the effort this time, so thought I'd take advantage of the "postmark" deadline and live dangerously.


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