Free postage will be used for mail-in ballots starting next year


Voters no longer need to worry about stocking up on stamps if they mail in their vote.

Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday, Assembly Bill 216 requires state counties to have free postage on hand for ballots submitted by mail.

The bill was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, who wanted the accessibility of mail-in voting to further improve, according to a representative for Fletcher.

“Some ballots required as much as $1 worth of postage,” said Evan McLaughlin, Fletcher’s spokesperson. “Postage is typically only available for purchase through retail stamp books that cost more than $10, and younger voters especially don’t carry stamps as frequently as past voters, because they communicate and transact electronically.”

During the June 5 Primary, 45 percent of voters in L.A. County cast their votes by mail, according to the California Secretary of State’s website. In contrast, 36 percent of votes from the county were mailed in during the 2016 election.

Before the bill’s approval, 10 counties were already paying for postage stamps. Those counties will still provide stamps for mail-in ballots during the upcoming election in November. Starting in 2019, all 58 counties will provide stamps.

In 2016, nearly three-out-of-five California voters used a mail ballot to cast their votes, McLaughlin said.

As the number of mail-in votes are projected to rise over the course of the next few election cycles, this new law will work in tandem with Senate Bill 450, Fletcher said in a news release.

SB 450 will make voting options more convenient with temporary vote centers located across state counties, and will include the option of casting ballots electronically.

“As more counties move to expand voting by mail, we are at serious risk of leaving California’s millennials, and their voting power, behind by expecting them to utilize a process with which they are unfamiliar,” said the California Voter Foundation in a statement sent to Gov. Brown on July 12. “Providing postage-paid envelopes removes a potentially significant voting barrier, especially for California’s younger voters.”

Those who vote should not feel “disenfranchised” by forgetting to place a stamp on their ballot, she added, calling this change in mail-in voting “common sense.”

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