Local mail ballots got some run on the Channel 13 news last night. Commentary was the first to talk about the postage costs that now are kind of causing a debate of sorts. I said this the other day:
My Mom still gets around the house but doesn’t drive these days. My Dad does drive but has undergone eye surgery recently so he hung up the car keys for the time being. This past Friday my Mom called to let me know that their mail ballots had arrived and on the return envelope it said you had to plunk down a 69 cent stamp instead of a Forever stamp. Who in the heck has a 69 cent stamp laying around? She said she didn’t like the idea of slapping on two Forevers on the envelope. I don’t blame her. Since I was planning to visit the next day to bring them some grub, I told them I would stop by the post office and buy a couple of 69ers out of the postage gizmo in the lobby.
I rarely handle mail ballots, but this is the first time I have ever seen the “69 cent postage due” printed on the return envelope. I am thinking that some older voters might miss the 69 cent notice and will just stick a Forever on the envelope. I hope they don’t get their ballots returned or lost.
Well, it turns out the USPS says the cost is actually 70 cents and the word is they are holding a tray or two of ballots over at the post office until they are assured of payment. Some ballots probably have the 69 cents, some the Forevers, and some probably don’t have any postage. Hey, times are tough at the post office these days.
Look, this is the first time the county ever printed on the return ballot envelope “69 cent postage due.” In the past they probably had to eat the difference of all the envelopes with the Forever stamps. But with more and more folks voting by mail and let’s say if 82,000 stick on a Forever, then that is $17,220 the county has to cough up. I get that but that is not a discussion we ought to be having less than four weeks before the election. Can we talk later and in the meantime let’s go over to Franklin Street and pick up our mail.
Well, while most of us were watching the Texans last night, Channel 13 ran a news story on the confusion, mix-up, screw-up, or whatever. Here is the story:
Hundreds of mail-in ballots that are being mistakenly held for days at a downtown post office will now be delivered to the Harris County Clerks Office.
The downtown post office was holding the ballots for insufficient postage, something they are not supposed to do.
“We found a glitch. And we’re going to expose this,” said Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.
Lewis found out about the ballots and offered to pay for the postage shortage. Almost all the ballots were short on postage by just pennies.
“These votes whether Republican or Democrat, I don’t know, but they need to be counted,” said Lewis.
A postal worker told Eyewitness News the shortage was about $57. The worker said for that price, Lewis could take the ballots, put the stamp on himself and return them to the post office. That’s against policy and illegal.
“We could have walked out of here with those ballots. But we did not,” said Lewis.
That is totally irresponsible on their part,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.
Eyewitness News learned the county clerk’s office has an account with the Post Master, so any shortage should be billed to his office. Post office workers said they knew nothing about an account. They were ready to send the ballots back to the voters.
“By procedure and by law, deliver the ballots regardless of the postage on those ballots,” said Stanart.
Eyewitness News learned Stanart made his own mistake. The return ballot states the postage is 69 cents. But it should have been 70 cents. Some ballots were being held for just a penny. Stanart said he didn’t know about the change in postage.
“I personally didn’t. I would have to talk to my office if they do know that,” said Stanart.
Dionne Montague, a USPS spokeswoman, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:
“We have policies in place to ensure absentee balloting material, received in the mail, is handled promptly. We do not delay delivering ballot materials even when they are received with insufficient funds or no postage. Our policy is to attempt to collect the postage due from the election office at the time of delivery or at a later date. This policy will be rein forced with all of our employees.”
Stanart said the problem has been worked out, and the ballots will be soon delivered to his office.
I sure hope so. I wonder if you can ask a Forever stamp for a Voter ID.
Of the four teams remaining in the MLB Playoffs, name the player with the highest batting average of the past season?
Today the Chron E-Board endorsed in more state house races – 4 GOPers, 4 Dems, and 1 they skipped. Check it out here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/State-House-part-2-5812628.php.
J.J. Watt certainly knows how to live up to the hype. He certainly owns this town.
Buster Posey of course of the Giants leads all playoff players with a .311 season batting average.
The ‘Stros won’t be bringing back pitcher Matt Albers next season. He was dinged up most of the season. He only pitched 10 innings and was paid $2.25 mil. The team also said adios to Jesus Guzman. He only got into 69 games, was paid $1.3 mil, and batted .188. Hitting Coach John Mallee is leaving so he can become Hitting Coach for the Cubbies. Mallee is credited with helping Jose Altuve win the MLB batting title. Mallee is from the Chicago area so you can’t blame him for wanting to be close to home and his family.