The stamp box on your absentee ballot envelope isn't big enough, says Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn, but the NAACP and the U.S. Post Office say they will make sure that your vote will be counted.
Dunn told the Jackson Free Press today that the size of the envelope and the ballot inside raises the postage to 83 cents, despite the postage box on the exterior of the envelope reading: "Place stamp (singular) here." "We need the general public to know that it takes two stamps to make sure their absentee ballot reaches the circuit clerk's office without complication," Dunn said.
Circuit clerk employees say many ballots bearing only one stamp arrived at the clerk's office with additional postage demands from the U.S. Post Office. Dunn said her employees will not reject the ballots, but she wonders who is ultimately going to have to pay the additional postage.
"I don't know if the U.S. Post Office will eat the loss or are they expecting us to pay for it," Dunn said. "It doesn't matter as far as the envelopes go. The ones that are here are here now, and we'll count them, but I still would like to know."
Dunn could not say if postal distribution networks in other counties would mail under-financed ballots.
"They ought to mail them anyway, if they recognize what they are," she said.
Doug Kyle, communications manager for the U.S. Post Office's Mississippi district, said postal employees have been told to send absentee ballot envelopes to their destination, regardless of funding.
"We encourage voters to put the correct postage on it, but we've told our people not to delay or return any short-paid or unpaid absentee ballots. We want to make sure they get to where they need to go," Kyle said. "We will be contacting the various agencies that are getting those back as to resolving the issue of any unpaid postage."
Kyle said it was up to the recipients of the ballots to work with the U.S. Post Office on paying the difference.
Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, could not confirm that the ballots suffered postage issues Tuesday morning, but added that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann would issue a press release on the matter once the problem was confirmed.
The ballot issue follows on the heels of an announcement by Hosemann that the numbers on registered state voters have increased to almost 2 million.
Hosemann grossly underestimated voter turnout for the 2008 presidential primaries, anticipating between 125,000 and 150,000 votes from both parties. The actual number was almost 600,000, with Dems casting 434,000 votes and Republicans issuing 143,000.
Hosemann acknowledged that the state now has 1,873,740 registered voters, with an increase of 172,787 registrations since Jan. 1.
Most of the new voters are likely under the age of 40, Mississippi Young Democrats President Parker Wiseman said.
"The majority of new registrations are young people who have never registered before," Wiseman said, adding that the oversized ballot envelopes and extra costs put absentee ballot voters at the mercy of county circuit clerks, who may treat the under-funded ballots based on partisan behavior.
"Hinds County might be OK, but there are some circuit clerks in college towns who try to discourage students from voting, and students and young people are most affected by absentee-ballot issues," Wiseman said. "Some clerks need few reasons to throw out a ballot."