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Peoria Defender

NAACP Decries Peoria's Move to End Prepaid Mail-In Ballot Postage

The Peoria County Election Commission should keep prepaid postage for returning mail-in ballots. Ending this policy creates an unnecessary barrier that could disenfranchise voters.

Financial Impact on Voters of Ending Prepaid Mail-in Ballot Postage

Without prepaid postage, voters in Peoria County will now need to supply two first-class stamps to return their mail-in ballots for $1.32. This added expense poses a financial burden and deterrent that could prevent eligible citizens from participating in our democracy.

Voter holding a small us flag over a ballot box in protest of poll tax

Voter Accessibility Concerns

Starting in 2023, voters in Peoria County will need to supply their own postage when returning mail-in ballots. The Peoria County Election Commission recently voted to end prepaid return postage, a policy in place for years. This controversial decision has sparked debate about potential impacts on voter access.

Currently, thirty-five states allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail. Of those, nineteen states and Washington D.C. require local election officials to supply prepaid return postage on mail-in ballots. While Illinois allows no-excuse absentee voting, it does not mandate prepaid return postage.

Yes, prepaid postage comes at a budget cost, as does operating polling places and ballot drop boxes. But these expenses reflect the inherent cost of accessible, high-turnout elections. With historically low voter turnout, election officials should drop barriers to participation, not erect new ones.

Rationale and Expected Savings


Old Mailbox attached to pole. Peoria voters will no longer get prepaid mail-in ballots

Proponents emphasize the potential savings of $14,000 - $18,000 per election in postage costs. However, the civic value of participatory democracy outweighs these marginal budget impacts. As elected stewards, the Commission must prioritize voter access over cost savings.

The Commission should consider business reply mail if costs are still a concern. This would spare voters postage fees while charging the Election Commission only for returned ballots that voters mail back. The Commission could also add more ballots drop boxes as a postage-free choice.

Response and Outlook

In a controversial 3-1 vote last June, the Election Commission approved ending prepaid postage after November’s election. During a September meeting, NAACP Election Chair Jackie Petty criticized the move as essentially “voters paying to vote.”

This policy change has galvanized opponents. The NAACP has called the decision a “subtle but deliberate attempt at voter suppression” that disproportionately affects seniors, low-income residents, and people with disabilities. They are asking residents to attend an August 15 Commission Board meeting to protest this “poll tax” on mail voting. The Board meeting is at 2 pm on August 15 at 4422 Brandywine Dr, STE 1, Peoria, IL,

With the contentious change nearing implementation, pressure is mounting for the Election Commission to reverse course in the interest of accessible, high-turnout participation.

Conclusion

This November, the Peoria Election Commission must uphold its responsibility to prioritize voter access over cost savings. They should reverse the short-sighted decision to end prepaid postage on mail-in ballots. Democracy depends on removing barriers between voters and the ballot box.

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