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VERIFY: Prepaid ballot envelopes are first-class mail, not bulk

A legitimate ballot envelope with prepaid postage won't be processed as bulk. In fact, it must be first-class mail and have a proper $.55 stamp.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Got (election) mail? Make sure postage doesn't pose a problem with your vote.

On the heels of voter registration day, more absentee ballots are going out to voters who request them in North Carolina. Recently, the VERIFY team looked into an absentee ballot application form from the Center for Voter Information. It included a prepaid postage envelope, and WFMY verified it was a legitimate means of requesting a ballot.

RELATED: Got (election) mail? This absentee ballot application with pre-paid postage is legitimate


Good Morning Show viewer Jolee asked WFMY to follow up with this question: "I heard that the postage-paid ballots are not handled as first-class mail but rather bulk rate and not processed as quickly. Is this accurate?"

For background, bulk mail is usually 200 or more pieces of mail sent at one time, so the sender gets a discount on postage. It is also known as USPS marketing mail, which the USPS specifies can take up to three to 10 business days, compared to one to three business days for first-class mail. 

Credit: USPS

How is pre-paid election mail handled? Let's VERIFY.



USPS communications specialist Philip Bogenberger explained:

"Just like other mail from individuals, such as holiday cards and bill payments, completed ballots mailed by a voter to an election official are always first-class mail – unless the voter pays for a premium service like priority mail or priority mail express. Completed ballots are first-class mail regardless of whether they are prepaid by election officials or mailed with a stamp affixed by the voter."

The State Board of Elections developed an instruction sheet to accompany a mail-in ballot. It explains, clearly at the top, postage is $.55 or one Forever stamp. Guilford County Board of Elections director Charlie Collicutt said each county board of election puts its custom contact information on this sheet.

Credit: Guliford County Board of Elections

"Voters are responsible for understanding their local jurisdiction's rules and requirements for participating in an election. We recommend that domestic, non-military voters request their ballot as early as their jurisdiction allows," Bogenberger said. 


Will a prepaid ballot envelope be processed as bulk and take longer? The answer is no, as long as the envelope has a first-class stamp on it. So, it'll cost $.55 cents -- or one Forever stamp -- to send the ballot request. Then, it'll take another stamp to mail back the actual ballot. Or, a voter can drop it off at his or her county board of elections.

RELATED: Potential changes coming for North Carolina absentee ballots--here's what you need to know

Do you have a VERIFY inquiry? Submit a post, screen shot or selfie video to Meghann Mollerus via:

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E-mail: Mmollerus@wfmy.com