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Election officers had been worried that without a new agreement on postal rates, it could cost some Americans as much as $60 to mail a ballot from overseas.

Postal deal resolves anxiety over cost of overseas voting

Agreement this week at an international meeting on postal rates should remove any concerns about potentially outrageous costs for mailing ballots to and from American citizens living overseas.

Election officials had grown increasingly worried following the Trump administration's threat to withdraw in October from the Universal Postal Union, a group of nearly 200 nations that governs international postal rates. Such a move would have made it both difficult and costly for Americans living abroad to mail home their ballots.

But at a special meeting this week in Geneva, the countries involved in the UPU reached an agreement to address concerns by the United States and others regarding the lower rates that China was being charged.

The administration and business leaders complained that the Chinese shipping rates — established when the country was very poor and still developing — gave Chinese businesses a financial advantage over their U.S. competitors.

Potentially caught in the crossfire were state officials preparing for a spike in overseas mail-in voting during next year's presidential election. One predicted that a it could cost overseas voters as much as $60 to use a commercial shipping service.

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Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly/U.S. Air Force

The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.

The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.

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Mail-in ballots await counting in Modesto, Calif., during the 2018 general election.

Suit challenges subjective system for rejecting Texas mail-in ballots

Election officials in Texas, the nation's second largest state and one that's rapidly becoming politically competitive, are being sued by voters and advocacy groups who say the way they reject mail-in ballots is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in San Antonio by two voters and groups who advocate for the disabled, older and disabled veterans, people in jail, and young voters on college campuses.

People in all of those groups tend to make extensive use of mail-in ballots, not only in Texas but across the country. And litigating to ease the rules for this type of voting is becoming an increasing popular tactic for those pushing for better access to the ballot box.

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The West Virginia secretary of state ran a limited experiment with online voting in 2018.

First federal election with online voting boosted turnout

Turnout was boosted between 3 and 5 percentage points last year by mobile voting in West Virginia, the first state in the country to permit such balloting in a federal election.

Members of the armed forces and other overseas voters from 24 of the state's 55 counties were allowed to vote online in the midterm. The limited experiment was orchestrated by the Republican secretary of state, Mac Warner, who cited his own frustration in trying to vote while stationed overseas in the Army.

"The effects of voting online could potentially be even greater if it were implemented in a more convenient way," the University of Chicago's Anthony Fowler, who conducted the research, told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. "Mobile voting could have a profound impact on increasing voter turnout and potentially reduce inequalities in participation."

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