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Last updateFri, 11 Oct 2019 1pm

2019 US overseas ballot ‘nightmare’ looms amid global postal dispute

Democrats Abroad (DA) is warning that postal mail service to the United States could be “thrown into disarray” should the Trump administration carry out its threat to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in mid-October.

To remain a member of UPU, the Trump Administration wants to be allowed to use private commercial logistics partners and set its own rates for the delivery of small packages. The bulk of e-commerce comes into the United States from China, which, the president says, gains an unfair advantage.

On November 5, gubernatorial elections will be held in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. State legislative elections will also be held in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, as well as for the New Jersey General Assembly (the lower house of the New Jersey legislature). Numerous citizen initiatives, mayoral races and a variety of other local elections will also take place.

Elections officials in some states have asked deployed service members and other overseas voters to submit their absentee ballots ahead of time due to the possibility of the United States withdrawing from the UPU.

The UPU was established in 1874 and sets the terms of mail and postal parcels between countries.

If an agreement isn’t thrashed out at a September 25-26 extraordinary meeting of the UPU in Switzerland,  Trump could pull the United States from the agency on October 17. 

Says DA: “It would not only change the landscape of global shipping, but could more immediately threaten delivery of overseas absentee ballots and the outcome of elections this fall.”

In 2018, 67 percent of ballots from abroad were returned by postal mail, according to DA.

DA fears that ballots may not make it back on time, or overseas voters could be forced to pay high fees for private couriers to have their ballots delivered.

DA suggests that expat voters from any of the 19 states requiring ballot requests and/or returns be sent by mail (and not by email/online submission) should contact their governors and state legislators and demand that they “step up to preserve your right to vote from abroad.”

UPU Director General Bishar Hussein said a “nightmare scenario” could see mail going undelivered, packages piling up and U.S. stamps no longer being recognized abroad.

In contrast, White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro told journalists recently that the United States could leave the UPU with “absolutely no disruption in military mail, election mail or holiday mail.” Overseas voters would not have to pay any additional fees to send their ballots home, he vowed.

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