Ballots delivered without proper postage raises questions

Ballots delivered without proper postage raises questions »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – In addition to the investigation of suspected ballot tampering in Clackamas County, another ballot controversy is brewing in Oregon.

The postal service is delivering mail-in ballots that lack proper postage, despite Oregon's law that says mailed ballots need postage.

Election officials are counting those ballots that lack the necessary postage.

Every vote counts and the goal of elections leaders is to encourage voters to take part in the process. So it would seem fitting that the postal service is delivering all ballots, regardless of stamps.

But "(Oregon law) clearly says that the voter is responsible for putting postage on the ballot if it's going to be returned," said Tim Scott, the director of elections in Multnomah County.

He said postage hasn't been an issue until now – not even during the May primary six months ago.

"Normally those ballots are not even given to us because we direct the post office to return them to the voter because they have not put postage on it," Scott said.

In an Oct. 24 email, Oregon Elections Director Stephen Trout wrote to the postal service that "while we appreciate that this policy is well intentioned, it is in direct conflict with Oregon state law and the practices we have had in place for years."

Responding to Trout a week later, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe writes that " ... ensuring the timely delivery of ballots sent through the mail, properly reflects the appropriate role of the postal service in the functioning of the electoral process."

But he went on to note " ... the policy does not dictate whether any Oregon election official must accept short-paid ballots or must count the votes contained therein."

"We've been directed to accept all ballots regardless of whether they have postage or not," Scott said.

The postal service says this is a national policy that has been in place since at least 2010.

But no one at the postal service in Oregon remembers these ballots being delivered in any other election. And it raises the question of whether it will influence close elections here in Oregon and around the country.