Friday, September 26, 2008

Post Office Denies Absentee Voters

One day last week, Cara Loriz went to the post office in Shelter Island, New York, in search of an application for an absentee ballot. There weren’t any. Earlier this year, she was told, the U.S. Postal Service had ordered local post offices to stop making the forms available in their lobbies. Loriz was not only a prospective voter, however. She also is editor of the local newpaper in tiny Shelter Island, NY (pop. 2800), and she began looking into the story.

She obtained a copy of a USPS directive, dated August 22nd and faxed to post offices nationwide, explicitly banning applications for absentee ballots in lobbies. The directive lumps ballot applications together with partisan political material like flyers. (The directive also told postmasters that the distribution of voter-registration forms was “optional.”) Absentee ballot applications have never before been prohibited, according to a 25-year veteran Postal Service supervisor who spoke to Loriz.

The prohibition caught the Suffolk County Board of Elections off guard. An official there confirmed that it had it had long been standard practice to supply stacks of absentee voter applications to post offices, and indeed, voters calling the Board in search of the applications were still being told to go to their local post office.

Recently the Associated Press issued a report predicting that one-third of the nation will vote early, largely through mailed absentee ballots. Loriz turned over the results of her investigations to Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Chuck Schumer, who are looking into the suppression of voter access.

Loriz’s story is at Her accompanying editorial is at