News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
George Frey/Getty Images

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.

Nearly 400,000 absentee ballots from overseas voters were counted in the 2018 midterm election, with about 220,000 of those from civilians and the rest from members of the military, according to the Election Assistance Commission. About 500,000 overseas ballots were counted in the 2016 presidential election.

Among the states that receive the most overseas absentee ballots are solidly blue California and Washington along with Texas and Florida, two states with a combined 67 electoral votes that both look to be ardently contested by both nominees.

The Defense Department, which operates a special program for military members who need to vote via absentee ballot, had promised there would be minimal disruptions even if the U.S. pulled out of the international postal union in October.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Ballot measures are good democracy — but only if you can understand them

Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.

This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.

In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
teguhjatipras/Getty Images

Two states asking Supreme Court for permission to regulate Electoral College conduct

Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.

The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.

Keep reading... Show less