[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 167 (Wednesday, August 28, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 53027-53029]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-20799]


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POSTAL SERVICE

39 CFR Part 111


Balloting Materials Postage

AGENCY: Postal ServiceTM.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Postal Service will revise Mailing Standards of the United 
States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM[supreg]) 703.8.0 to 
require that all ballot types include in the balloting materials a 
marking to indicate that the proper amount of postage must be paid and 
the balloting materials must also indicate the specific amount of 
postage for the return of ballots, unless mailed under certain 
specified exceptions.

DATES: Effective date: October 7, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steven Monteith at (202) 268-6983, or 
Garry Rodriguez at 202-268-7281.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On May 2, 2013, the Postal Service published 
a proposed rule (78 FR 25677-25678) inviting comments on revisions to 
the standards for balloting materials. In response to this proposed 
rule, the Postal Service received several comments that are summarized 
and discussed below.
    After considering the comments received, the Postal Service will 
revise the DMM to require that the balloting materials for all types of 
ballots, whether disseminated hardcopy or electronically, must indicate 
in a prominent location the proper amount of First-Class Mail[supreg] 
postage that must be paid. This information must be included in the 
balloting materials (i.e., on the ballot, ballot instructions, mailing 
instructions, or the envelope) with the marking ``First-Class Mail 
postage must be applied.'' Alternatively, the marking ``Apply First-
Class Mail postage here'' could be printed in the upper right corner of 
the address side of the envelope used by the voter to return the ballot 
to election officials. The Postal Service will also accept approved 
variations of the above markings.
    Additionally, this final rule requires that the balloting materials 
indicate in a prominent location the specific amount of First-Class 
Mail postage required for the return of the ballot to election 
officials.
    The marking requirements will not apply to balloting materials that 
meet one of the following exceptions:
     The balloting materials are qualified under the special 
exemption for military and overseas voting.
     The ballot is returned under Business Reply Mail[supreg] 
service.
     Return postage is guaranteed through a postage due 
account.
     Postage on the ballot is prepaid by stamps, meter, or 
Permit Reply Mail.

Comments and Discussion

    The Postal Service received fourteen formal responses to the 
proposed rule. Thirteen responses were received from State election 
officials and one comment was received from a consumer. Several 
responses included comments about more than one issue. Comments and 
responses are as follows.
    One commenter pointed out that in the preamble the word 
``sufficient'' was included in the markings to indicate that the proper 
amount of postage must be paid, but was omitted in the proposed text of 
DMM 703.8.1.2. We regret any confusion, and note that the word 
``sufficient'' will not be required in the markings required by the 
final rule.
    Some commenters indicated that they are already including different 
variations of the proposed markings. The Postal Service appreciates 
this proactive approach and will make the necessary changes to also 
allow the use of approved versions.
    One commenter questioned the requirement to indicate the specific 
amount of postage required, based on the current use of 
ForeverTM stamps. The value of a Forever stamp is widely 
publicized as the current First-Class Mail single-piece 1-ounce price. 
When a Forever stamp is used on a piece requiring postage greater than 
the First-Class Mail single-piece 1-ounce price, additional postage 
must be affixed.
    Other commenters voiced practical concerns about the requirement to 
indicate the specific amount of postage for the return of the ballot. 
These concerns included the need to order election envelopes in bulk, 
management of excess inventory, and the effect of annual price changes. 
In response to these concerns, the definition of ``balloting 
materials'' has been broadened to include ``mailing instructions.'' 
This will provide election officials an alternative to printing the 
markings on the ballot, voting instructions, or return envelope.
    Some commenters expressed concerns regarding the ability of 
election officials to determine the specific postage required to return 
the ballot. The amount of postage communicated to voters should be 
based only on what is required to be returned. Local postal personnel 
are available to work with election officials to determine the amount 
of postage which should be applied.

[[Page 53028]]

    One commenter suggested the use of a static URL or telephone number 
in lieu of the proposed markings. We believe that placing the correct 
postage due notification in a prominent location within the balloting 
materials will have higher visibility and encourage voter compliance. A 
link to an ancillary information source may be provided as a 
supplement.
    One commenter raised concerns over the ability to provide the 
postage amount for the return of the ballot on electronic ballots that 
are printed by the voter. The Postal Service recognizes the potential 
for inconsistency when voters self-print ballots and use unspecified 
paper and envelope configurations. The Postal Service recommends that 
election officials include a supplementary notification specifically 
directed to voters who self-print and return ballots, such as: ``Please 
be sure to affix the correct amount of First-Class Mail postage when 
returning ballots through the U.S. Mail.''
    Some commenters suggested an exception to the proposed requirements 
should be made based on an arrangement with the USPS[supreg] to pay for 
all ballots returned with insufficient postage. The Postal Service 
recognizes and appreciates the local partnerships that many election 
officials have with the Postal Service. Therefore, we have included use 
of a postage due account to pay postage due on all short-paid ballots 
as an exception to the markings.
    One commenter questioned the means of verification to ensure 
compliance with the marking requirements. As part of the verification 
procedure, mailers are required to provide a sample of balloting 
materials to the Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU) at the time of 
mailing. If a sample is not provided, BME staff will contact the mail 
provider or mail owner and request that the required sample be provided 
to the BMEU the same day. To ensure consistency and provide clarity, 
the requirement to provide a sample with each mailing will be added to 
the DMM.
    One commenter questioned the treatment of balloting materials that 
do not comply with the marking requirements. The Postal Service will 
actively assist election officials to comply with the applicable postal 
laws and regulations governing mail preparation and mailability. 
Information about USPS standards is available from postmasters, BME 
managers, the Pricing and Classification Service Center manager, and 
Postal Explorer[supreg] at pe.usps.com. Election officials also have 
the option of using Business Reply Mail service or establishing a 
``postage due'' account in lieu of using the markings.
    Some commenters questioned the treatment of ballots returned with 
insufficient postage. Generally, mail of any class received at either 
the office of mailing or office of address without enough postage is 
marked to show the total deficiency of postage and is delivered to the 
addressee on payment of the charges marked on the mail. If ballots are 
returned with insufficient postage, the Postal Service will deliver 
these ballots to election officials and collect postage due from 
election officials who accept delivery of short paid ballots. The 
Postal Service recommends that all election officials have a postage 
due account for the payment of postage due or use Business Reply Mail 
service. If election officials decline to pay the postage due for short 
paid ballots, the ballots will be handled under the standards provided 
in DMM 604.8.0.
    One commenter stated that implementation of the new standards would 
lead not only to increased printing costs, but also to voter 
disenfranchisement. To the contrary, the Postal Service anticipates 
that the new standards will improve the vote-by-mail process for all 
participants, and thus encourage an increase in voter participation. 
While some election officials have arrangements in place to process 
ballots with insufficient postage, many do not. Since each election 
cycle presents a different set of parameters for ballot creation and 
for the size and weight of the mail piece, we believe that voters need 
to be better informed of the correct postage required to return a 
ballot by mail. Informing voters will enhance the vote-by-mail process:
    [ssquf] Voters will know what postage is required to return their 
ballot and will be more likely to apply the correct First-Class Mail 
postage.
    [ssquf] Election officials will incur less expense to pay the 
postage due on returned ballots.
    [ssquf] The Postal Service will be able to process ballots in a 
timely manner and expedite their return to election officials, without 
the added delay and expense of calculating and collecting postage due.
In sum, the requirement to inform the voter about the correct postage 
required to return a ballot by mail has numerous benefits. The design 
and prominent placement of the notification will assist in this 
process. Election officials will have several options for compliance, 
including the choice to establish a postage due or Business Reply Mail 
account and can select the one they believe is the easiest and least 
costly to implement.
    One commenter inquired regarding the treatment of matter sent as 
Free Matter for the Blind and Other Physically Handicapped Persons. 
Subject to the standards in DMM 703.5.0, acceptable matter sent to the 
blind or other physically handicapped persons may be entered as 
domestic mail free of postage. Under DMM 703.5.2, reading matter in 
braille or 14-point or larger sightsaving type is considered acceptable 
matter subject to opening and inspection by the USPS. In accordance 
with DMM 703.5.3 matter may also be mailed free of postage by blind or 
other physically handicapped persons. This matter includes unsealed 
letters in braille or in 14-point or larger sightsaving type containing 
no advertising. Where requested, the Postal Service will cooperate with 
election officials regarding any modification of the vote-by-mail 
process to accommodate the needs of blind or other physically 
handicapped voters.
    Some additional comments were received, generally pertaining to 
mail classification, pricing, special exemptions, delivery, and postage 
payment methods. These comments have been deemed by the Postal Service 
to be beyond the scope of this rule.
    In addition, based on subsequent communication with election 
officials, the Postal Service has revised its original proposal to 
include the prepayment of postage by stamps, meter, or Permit Reply 
Mail, as an additional exception to the marking standards.
    The Postal Service adopts the following changes to Mailing 
Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual 
(DMM), incorporated by reference in the Code of Federal Regulations. 
See 39 CFR 111.1.

List of Subjects in 39 CFR Part 111

    Administrative practice and procedure, Postal Service.

    Accordingly, 39 CFR part 111 is amended as follows:

PART 111--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for 39 CFR part 111 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552(a); 13 U.S.C. 301-307; 18 U.S.C. 1692-
1737; 39 U.S.C. 101, 401, 403, 404, 414, 416, 3001-3011, 3201-3219, 
3403-3406, 3621, 3622, 3626, 3632, 3633, and 5001.


0
2. Revise the following sections of Mailing Standards of the United 
States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), as follows:
* * * * *

[[Page 53029]]

Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail 
Manual (DMM)

* * * * *

700 Special Standards

[Revise the heading of 703 as follows:]

703 Nonprofit Standard Mail and/or Other Unique Eligibility

* * * * *

[Revise the heading of 8.0 as follows:]

8.0 Balloting Materials

[Renumber 8.1 and 8.2 as 8.2 and 8.3. Add new 8.1 as follows:]

8.1 Basic Standards

8.1.1 Definition

    Balloting materials include postcard applications, all ballot 
types, voting instructions, mailing instructions, and return envelopes.

8.1.2 Exceptions to Standards

    An exception to the marking and verification standards in 8.1.3 
through 8.1.5 is granted for one of the following reasons:
    a. Ballots are mailed under 8.2, Special Exemption.
    b. Ballots are returned under 505.1.0, Business Reply Mail.
    c. A postage due account has been established to guarantee the 
payment of return postage.
    d. Prepayment of return postage is made by stamps, meter, or Permit 
Reply Mail.

8.1.3 Postage

    Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.1.2, 
balloting materials for any election, whether disseminated hardcopy or 
electronically, must indicate in a prominent location that the proper 
amount of postage must be paid. This information must be included in 
the balloting materials with the marking ``First-Class Mail postage 
must be applied.'' Alternatively, the marking ``Apply First-Class Mail 
postage here'' may be printed in the upper right corner of the address 
side of the return envelope. Approved versions will also be acceptable 
in either location. Election officials should consult with postal 
officials to assist with mailpiece design, barcode placement, and to 
determine the proper amount of postage required for mailing ballots to 
voters and the return of ballots to election officials.

8.1.4 Notification of Postage Requirement on Return Ballots

    Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.1.2, all 
ballot types for any election, whether disseminated hardcopy or 
electronically, must indicate in a prominent location on the balloting 
materials the specific amount of First-Class Mail postage required for 
return by mail to election officials.

8.1.5 Verification

    Except for ballots meeting one of the exceptions under 8.1.2, each 
mailing must be accompanied by a complete sample mailpiece.

[Revise the heading of renumbered 8.2 as follows:]

8.2 Special Exemption

8.2.1 Definition

[Revise the introductory text of renumbered 8.2.1 as follows:]

    Balloting materials may be sent through the mail without prepayment 
of postage to enable persons in the following categories to apply for 
registration and vote by absentee ballot when absent from the place of 
voting residence and otherwise eligible to vote as an absentee:
* * * * *

[Delete renumbered heading 8.3, Marking, and renumber 8.3.1 as 8.2.5, 
Exhibit 8.3.1 as Exhibit 8.2.5, 8.3.2 as 8.2.6, Exhibit 8.3.2 as 
Exhibit 8.2.6, and 8.3.3 as 8.2.7.]

* * * * *
    We will publish an appropriate amendment to 39 CFR part 111 to 
reflect these changes.

Stanley F. Mires,
Attorney, Legal Policy and Legislative Advice.
[FR Doc. 2013-20799 Filed 8-27-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7710-12-P