If You Get This in the Mail, Return It to the USPS Immediately, Officials Say
This should be sent directly back through the postal service.
If you've never received mail that wasn't actually for you, consider yourself lucky. At one point or another, most of us have dealt with getting mailers meant for previous residents or had a neighbor's package mistakenly left at our doorstep. We usually end up tossing junk mail regardless of the name on the envelope, but officials are now warning that one piece of wrongfully addressed mail must be returned to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) immediately. Read on to find out what you should watch out for in your mailbox.
READ THIS NEXT: USPS Says You Can't Do This With Your Mail After Nov. 5.
The USPS is responsible for sending out election mail.
The Postal Service has more responsibility than just the day-to-day delivery of our regular mail—it also plays an integral role in helping absentee voters. "The American public can rely on the United States Postal Service's over 650,000 employees to fulfill our role in the electoral process," the agency confirms on its website.
The USPS says it uses a "robust and tested process" to deliver election mail to Americans. According to the agency, election mail is defined as "any item mailed to or from authorized election officials that enables citizens to participate in the voting process—including ballots, voter registration cards, absentee voting applications and polling place notifications."
The number of people voting by mail has increased.
As a result of the COVID pandemic, the Postal Service said it had to manage "unprecedented ballot mail volumes" during the 2020 election cycle that were "nearly double those of the 2016 general election." And last year, the agency delivered more than 63 million ballots through the U.S. mail to support elections across the country. Despite being an "off-year," the fall election cycle in 2021 was still very busy, according to the USPS, as it included statewide general elections in California, New Jersey, and Virginia, as well as a primary election in Florida and two special elections in Ohio.
"We take great pride in delivering the nation's election mail securely and on-time—it is a sacred civic duty that we fully embrace," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement.
But 2022 is a congressional midterm election year. On Nov. 8, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 35 Senate seats will be up for grabs, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. And as millions prepare for Election Day in the U.S. this year, officials are warning you to watch your mail carefully.
Certain ballots should be returned to the USPS.
Some Americans are required to request a ballot if they want to receive it through the mail, while other jurisdictions will "automatically mail ballots to all eligible voters," according to the USPS. But no matter the case, officials are now warning people that certain ballots should be returned to the Postal Service.
In a news release issued Oct. 17, Chuck Broerman, the Clark and Recorder for El Paso County, Colorado, said that residents who receive a ballot for someone who is deceased or who no longer lives at their address should return it through the mail, Colorado Politics reported. According to the outlet, this helps the Clerk and Recorder's Office mark certain voters as inactive, which means they won't receive ballots in the future unless they update their registration.
Broerman said that there are "several resources" that help the county ensure that only eligible voters are voting by mail. "However, when necessary, we rely on citizens to get involved in the democratic election process and return those ballot packets as undeliverable," he explained in the news release.
There are specific steps you should take to return election mail to the USPS.
Mail often gets sent to residences for those who have died or who lived there previously but have moved. (The agency has information on how to stop mail addressed to the decreased.) But when it comes to an election ballot, it's important to return it back to the USPS so officials can keep voter rolls up-to-date.
According to Colorado Politics, El Paso County officials said residents who receive erroneous ballots through the mail should check off the appropriate box on the back of their ballot packet, write "return to sender" on the front of the packet, and return it back to the USPS—not in a ballot drop-off box. Broerman said that it is important these ballots are marked "return to sender" so that the voter registration can be canceled or their address can be updated, if needed.