Houston

USPS Officials Allow Voter Materials At Post Offices After Issues In The Houston Area

Officials at the United States Postal Service told members of Congress in Texas that voting groups are allowed to leave voter registration and absentee ballot applications at post offices.

A postal worker in Austin.

Officials at the United States Postal Service told members of Congress in Texas that voting groups are allowed to leave voter registration and absentee ballot applications at post offices.

Late last month, members of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas said their volunteers were barred from leaving basic voter materials in post office lobbies. Grace Chimene, the group's president, said the issue started when she heard from volunteers in Waller County in mid-August.

"To resolve any confusion on this topic, the Postal Service is issuing clarifying internal guidance," Cory Brown, a government relations representative with USPS said in a letter to lawmakers.

"Such guidance will provide that, effective immediately ... postmasters or installation heads are authorized to allow the placement of voter registration forms and absentee ballot request forms in the Post Office Box lobbies of retail facilities, provided there is adequate space available for such materials,” Brown wrote.

Texas law doesn't allow online voter registration, so residents are often directed to pick up registration forms at USPS offices. On the Texas Secretary of State's website, for example, voters are directed to pick up a form from their "county Voter Registrar's office or pick up applications at libraries, government offices, or high schools."

Voting groups say USPS offices are government offices and therefore have had voter registration forms available. In fact, Chimene said her group has been planning to put more forms in post offices than usual because the pandemic has forced libraries and schools to close.

Earlier this month, Houston-area Democratic Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Al Green wrote to USPS officials raising concerns about what League volunteers experienced.

"As government offices, Houston USPS locations should have blank voter registration applications, which are non-partisan government forms, available to post office customers at all time," they wrote. "Furthermore, the Harris County Tax Assessor directs residents to post offices, among other locations, to pick up voter registration applications. It is important that our local post offices provide government forms, including voter registration applications, to people of the Houston community to ensure that all eligible voters can exercise their right to vote in our elections."

Postal Service officials said they "will immediately relay this new guidance to district managers and will follow up with written communication to postmasters and installation heads."

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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