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Mail-in ballots cost county more

Dennis Webb

This fall’s election ballot didn’t seem particularly lengthy to Carbondale-area resident Martha Collison.But when she went to mail her ballot at the Carbondale post office, the clerk told her that her 37-cent stamp wasn’t going to cover the cost of mailing it.”He said, ‘Well, you owe me 23 cents,'” Collison said.It surprised Collison to learn that it would cost her 60 cents to return her ballot to the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. And Clerk and Recorder Mildred Alsdorf said her office didn’t realize until after starting to send out ballots that voters would need more than a regular stamp to return them. As a result, the county will end up eating some of the cost of getting ballots back.Alsdorf said she has instructed the U.S. Postal Service not to return ballots with insufficient postage to the senders. Instead, she said, her office will pick up the cost of any unpaid postage, to make sure she gets the ballots and they are counted. She also is working to get the word out to voters to include the extra postage.Alsdorf said she had no idea how much paying extra postage might cost her office. She also said she hasn’t heard that anyone’s ballot has been returned for insufficient postage.Collison is glad to hear Alsdorf is addressing the problem but questions how it happened.”I think that it should have been printed in the instructions that additional postage would be needed,” she said.Alsdorf said that besides being initially unaware of the extra postage required, state law would have prevented her from putting something in the envelope notifying voters of the postage needed.”You can’t put extra things in the ballot envelope,” she said.She said it cost the county 60 cents to send out each ballot. It turned out to cost no less for voters to return it, even absent the envelope in which it was sent.She understands why some people might not put full postage on their ballots when they send them in.”Most people just put one stamp on it and they don’t have a way to measure the cost,” Alsdorf said.Ballots for first-time voters indicate that they must mail back some proof of identification with their ballots to be counted, just as all who vote at the polls on Election Day must provide. But Alsdorf said that all ballots require 60 cents postage to return, and not just those also containing proof of identification.No proof of ID is required for previous voters sending in ballots because Alsdorf’s office already has proof in its computer records in the form of driver’s license, Social Security or other information, she said.Alsdorf said a lot of people are dropping off their ballots at her office, which gets around the postage problem altogether .Collison hopes Alsdorf’s actions eliminate the possibility of ballots being returned to voters and never getting to their intended destination.”We need to count every ballot,” she said.


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