How much to mail an absentee ballot? Take your pick

The mail-in 2012 ballot for Berkeleyans involves putting four separate pieces into the envelope. Photo: Creative Commons

Update, Oct. 18, 2016: We got the official word from the Registrar of Voters office: “You can use 3 Forever stamps to return 4 Voted ballot cards in the mail. Just to let you know we have 24 hour drop boxes within Alameda County that are collected daily. Please check our website at www.acgov.org/rov for the list of drop boxes and locations.”

Update, Oct. 17, 2016: It costs up to $1.36 to send a vote-by mail ballot (formerly known as absentee ballot) in Berkeley in 2016, according to local neighbors who have done the legwork. Another source said it costs $1.10. Last time around, rates also varied. (We have updated this post because we noticed people searching for this information and Google was sending them to this article.)

The information that follows is from the 2012 election.

Original story, Oct. 17, 2012: How much will it cost to mail an absentee ballot? It depends who you ask.


Last week, a reader pointed out to Berkeleyside that the mail-in absentee ballot for the November 2012 election requires extra postage, but that the exact amount needed isn’t specified.

“I just filled out my ballot and, when I slipped it all back into the huge envelope and began to mail it, I realized the postage was not prepaid, nor did it say how much it should cost. It only says ‘Additional Postage Required’ and the envelope looks oversized and is fairly heavy for a letter. You might think it’s easy enough to go to the post office and find out, or I could weigh it and then look up the rates online. But these things are a major hassle.”

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, city officials and staff offered some insights to help voters know what to do with their absentee ballots. In Berkeley, the full package involves inserting four separate pieces into the envelope.

City Manager Christine Daniel said the vote-by-mail ballot requires $1.50 in postage, according to county Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald. The city has posted more detailed information on its website about what voters need to know.

Mayor Tom Bates said he asked his wife, Senator Loni Hancock, to ask Secretary of State Debra Bowen about the mail-in ballots, and Bowen said a regular first-class stamp would do the trick.

“Some people just put a 45-cent stamp on it, and that’s sufficient to make it happen. People should not be deterred unnecessarily,” said Bates. “If you mail it with a [45-cent] stamp, it will be received and it will be counted.”

City Manager Daniel said the city is taking the more conservative stance of recommending that voters use the $1.50 postage rate recommended by the county registrar.

Councilwoman Susan Wengraf said she, too, had been concerned about the issue, especially when she went to weigh her ballot and found that it required just $1.05. One of her constituents told her that a scale at another local post office put the postage rate at $1.70.

“I did call Dave Macdonald,” she said, adding that he told her that, “regardless of what was on the ballot, it will be delivered.”

Voters who prefer to drop off their ballots rather than pay for postage can do so prior to election day  at two locations. One is the city clerk’s office, 2180 Milvia St., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the office will be closed on two Fridays prior to the election, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, for reduced-service days. Voters also can leave ballots at the office of the registrar of voters in Oakland, at 1225 Fallon St.

On election day, Nov. 6, voters can drop off ballots at any polling location until 8 p.m.

Oct. 22 is the last day to register to vote. Confirm voter registration status online by checking the Alameda County Registrar of Voters “My Voter Profile” web page. California residents can register to vote online. Find personalized election information here, via smartvoter.org.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Guy Ashley, Alameda County spokesman, said Wednesday morning that every vote-by-mail ballot package sent out to county voters includes an insert to explain postage rates. In Berkeley, and other communities with four ballot cards, the official rate is $1.50.

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6.