Table 12: States With Postage-Paid Election Mail


Our organization does not run elections and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a voter looking for assistance, please contact your local election official. You can find your local election official's website and contact information by using this database from the US Vote Foundation.

This table is part of NCSL’s Voting Outside the Polling Place report.

In most cases, it is up to the voter to pay for postage to return an absentee/mail ballot envelope to the election official. Some see this as a barrier to returning a ballot, or as a type of poll tax. One solution to this potential issue is to have ballot drop boxes widely available. In states that hold all-mail elections, returning by drop box or in person is the most common return method. Another option is for election officials to pre-pay postage for voters to return their ballots.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., require local election officials to provide return postage for mailed ballots. This is typically a business-reply mailing, so that local officials only pay for return postage for the ballots that are actually returned via the U.S. Postal Service. Note: New Jersey leaves it up to the discretion of county clerks to provide a postage-paid envelope (N.J.S.A. 19:63-12).

It's important to note that the U.S. Postal Service has a policy of prioritizing election mail, especially ballots, and will deliver a ballot envelope even if it does not have sufficient postage. Typically, though, the post office will bill the local election office for the price of postage. If the majority of voters don't affix postage, this could be a significant expense for a local election office.

For military and overseas voters, federal law specifies that ballots can be returned to election officials using a free postage-paid symbol when mailed from a U.S. Post Office, Military Postal Service Agency (APO/FPO) or U.S. Diplomatic Pouch Mail. However, if voters return the ballot through a foreign mail system or via common carrier (such as FedEx, DHL or UPS), they must pay the rate for that service themselves.

The table below provides details and citations for the 18 states and Washington, D.C., that provide postage-paid envelopes to voters.

State Details


A.R.S. § 16-542
“The county recorder or other officer in charge of elections shall mail the early ballot and the envelope for its return postage prepaid to the address provided by the requesting elector…”


West's Ann. Cal. Elect. Code § 3010

“The elections official shall deliver all of the following to each qualified applicant: (2) All supplies necessary for the use and return of the ballot, including an identification envelope with prepaid postage for the return of the vote by mail ballot.”


Note: Counties bear the cost but since this is a state-mandated program, counties can claim reimbursement of those costs from the state general fund.


15 Del. Code § 5504
“Postage for all mailings made pursuant to this subsection shall be prepaid by the Department.”

District of Columbia

DC ST § 1-1001.05

"Before any upcoming voter registration or absentee ballot deadlines and with reasonable time for qualified electors to return materials to the Board:

(A) Provide to every unregistered qualified elector in the Department of Corrections' care or custody and endeavor to provide to every unregistered qualified elector in the Bureau of Prisons' care or custody:

(i) A voter registration form and postage-paid return envelope"


HRS § 11-182
“The mailed distribution and return of absentee ballots shall be at no cost to the voter. The State and counties shall share in the cost of all postage associated with the distribution and return of absentee.”


I.C. § 34-308

“The clerk shall issue a ballot, by mail, to every registered voter in a mail ballot precinct and shall affix postage to the return envelope sufficient to return the ballot.”


Note: This applies to mail ballot precincts, which must be designated by the board of county commissioners and have no more than 140 registered electors at the last general election.


IC 3-11-4-20

"An absentee ballot...shall be enclosed in an envelope, unsealed and stamped for return to the county election board by at least first class mail. One (1) side of the envelope must bear the name, official title, and post office address of the county election board. The pre-addressed, stamped envelope shall be furnished by the county election board."


I.C.A. § 53.8
“The absentee ballot and affidavit envelope shall be enclosed in or with an unsealed return envelope marked postage paid which bears the same serial number as the affidavit envelope.”


MD Code, Election Law, § 9-310

"The ballot/return envelope described...provided to a voter voting by absentee ballot shall include prepaid postage."


M.G.L.A. 54 § 25B

"The mailing of an early voting ballot shall outer envelope that is pre-addressed to the local election official with postage guaranteed."


M.S.A. § 203B.07
“Ballot return envelopes, with return postage provided, must be preaddressed to the auditor or clerk and the voter may return the ballot by mail or in person to the office of the auditor or clerk…”


V.A.M.S. 115.285
“Mailing envelopes for use in returning ballots shall be printed with business reply permits so that any ballot returned by mail does not require postage. All fees and costs for establishing and maintaining the business reply and postage-free mail for all ballots cast shall be paid by the secretary of state through state appropriations.”


Nev. Rev. Stat. 293.323
“The return envelope sent pursuant to subsection 1 must include postage prepaid by first-class mail if the absent voter is within the boundaries of the United States, its territories or possessions or on a military base.”

New Mexico

N. M. Stat. Ann. § 1-6-8
“The secretary of state shall prescribe the form of, procure and distribute to each county clerk a supply of: (1) official inner envelopes for use in sealing the completed mailed ballot; (2) official mailing envelopes for use in returning the official inner envelope to the county clerk, which shall be postage -paid; provided that only the official mailing envelope for absentee ballots in a political party primary shall contain a designation of party affiliation…”


O.R.S. § 254.473

“Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, for each election held in this state, electors shall be provided with a return identification envelope that may be returned by business reply mail. The state shall bear the cost of complying with this subsection.”

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-10         

“Upon the ballots becoming available, the secretary of state shall immediately issue and mail, by first-class mail, postage prepaid, a mail ballot to each eligible voter who has been certified. With respect to voters who have applied for these mail ballots under the provisions of § 17-20-2(1), the secretary of state shall include with the mail ballots a stamped, return envelope addressed to the board of elections.”


Note: According to this press release, postage is covered by the secretary of state's budget.


VA Code Ann. § 24.2-706

"the general registrar shall, at the time when the printed ballots for the election are available, send by the deadline set out in § 24.2-612, obtaining a certificate or other evidence of either first-class or expedited mailing or delivery from the United States Postal Service or other commercial delivery provider, or deliver to him in person in the office of the registrar, the following items and nothing else: ...An envelope, properly addressed and postage prepaid, for the return of the ballot to the general registrar by mail or by the applicant in person, or to a drop-off location."


West's RCWA 29A.40.091

“Return envelopes for all election ballots must include prepaid postage.”

West Virginia

W. Va. Code, § 3-3-5
“Within one day after the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting has both the completed application and the ballot, the official shall mail to the voter at the address given on the application the following items as required and as prescribed by the Secretary of State: …. One postage paid envelope, unsealed, designated “Absent Voter's Ballot Envelope No. 2…”


W.S.A. 6.87
“If the ballot is mailed, and the ballot qualifies for mailing free of postage under federal free postage laws, the clerk shall affix the appropriate legend required by U.S. postal regulations. Otherwise, the clerk shall pay the postage required for return when the ballot is mailed from within the United States. If the ballot is not mailed by the absentee elector from within the United States, the absentee elector shall provide return postage.”