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McCulloch Weighs In on U.S. Senator Tester’s Proposal to Postal Service

Tester to Postal Service: Protect Montanans’ right to vote
Senator says consolidating mail processing facilities could delay absentee ballots

Mailbox(U.S. SENATE) – With more and more Montanans voting by mail, Senator Jon Tester is urging the head of the U.S. Postal Service not to close mail processing facilities until 2013 – if it must close any at all.

The Postal Service agreed to suspend closures until at least May 15 and again during the general election season this fall, but Tester wants to extend the closure moratorium to include this year’s primary elections.

Montana holds its primary election on June 5.

Tester, who opposes closing any mail processing facilities, says closing facilities could prevent absentee ballots from reaching polling locations by Election Day.  Forty-seven percent of Montana voters cast absentee ballots in 2010, a threefold increase from 2000.

“With closures potentially beginning as soon as May 15, it is clear that primary voters will be negatively affected by possible closures of mail processing facilities,” Tester wrote Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.  “I am concerned that any new system would not be efficient enough to address such a large volume of time-sensitive mail.”

Tester also says that suspending all mail processing facility closures until 2013 would allow state legislatures to “better determine if and how vote-by-mail laws should be changed” to deal with changes to mail service.

“The U.S. Postal Service plays a valuable role in helping to facilitate fair and well run elections in Montana,” Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said.  “An untimely change to the mail processing system could potentially impact voter participation, voter confidence, and the dissemination of important election-related materials.”

There are nearly 635,000 registered voters in Montana.  To be accepted, Montanans’ absentee ballots must be returned to county election offices by the time polls close on Election Day.  Ballots postmarked on Election Day, but not received, are not accepted.

Tester last year got the Postal Service to delay plans to close 85 post offices and mail processing facilities to give Congress more time to work on a long-term reform of the financially-strapped organization.  He also led the charge to successfully convince the Postal Service to change course and keep Missoula’s processing facility open.

Tester’s letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe