In a letter sent this week to President Donald Trump, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold urges the Administration to reverse its unprecedented decision to leave the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Withdrawing from the UPU will likely disenfranchise military and overseas voters from all 50 states, D.C., and the five territories for the 2019 and 2020 elections.
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the UPU is part of his trade war with China, and threatens to disenfranchise millions of military and overseas voters. I urge the Administration to prioritize military and overseas voters by remaining in the UPU for now,” said Secretary Griswold.
The administration announced its intent to withdraw from the UPU on October 17, 2018. Under the UPU, a country must provide a year’s notice to withdraw. As a result, on October 17, 2019, the U.S. will leave the UPU unless the decision is reversed. Nationally, there are 1.3 million active military personnel and 700,000 spouses, as well as 3 million voting age citizens living abroad. While election officials will make every attempt to prevent disruption or confusion, it may be difficult for many military and overseas citizens to vote if the United States leaves the UPU. In Colorado, 38,625 military and overseas Coloradans voted in 2016 and 28,929 voted in 2018. Thirty percent of these voters are military and 70% are citizens living abroad.
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the UPU is part of his trade war with China, and threatens to disenfranchise millions of military and overseas voters. I urge the Administration to prioritize military and overseas voters by remaining in the UPU for now,”
Jena Griswold, CO Secretary of State
Currently, Colorado County Clerks mail or electronically send ballots through a secure and encrypted system to eligible military and overseas voters. Those voters can then return their ballots through the mail, an online secure ballot filing sharing system, or as a last resort, through email to their clerk. Military and overseas ballots for the 2019 election go in the mail on September 21, 2019. If the United States leaves the UPU, overseas voters who have yet to return their ballot by October 17th may not be able to do so through the mail. The Colorado Secretary of State is recommending voters use the secure ballot file sharing system to return their voted ballots electronically. Other states do not have secure ballot return options and fewer than half of states even allow electronic return.
“In Colorado, we’re working with our dedicated county clerks to contact every eligible military and overseas voter to inform them of the issue and suggest that they use our secure electronic ballot file sharing system to return their voted ballots. Other states do not have secure ballot return options, which means either their citizens may not be able to return an electronic ballot at all or will have to return an electronic ballot through an online system that may not be as secure as it could be,” continued Secretary Griswold.
For nearly 150 years, the UPU has guaranteed that all categories of mail are treated equally, regardless of country of origin. For U.S. citizens living abroad, including members of our armed forces, leaving the UPU will mean they can no longer rely on the mail service to send or receive their mailed ballots. There are 195 countries in the United Nations, 192 of which are UPU members. The State Department and U.S. Postal Service are trying to negotiate bilateral agreements to facilitate mail service on a country-by-country basis if the US leaves the UPU. However, absent agreements with every country, military and overseas voters will be affected – either because they did not receive a ballot or had no way to return that ballot.
The letter sent by Secretary Griswold urges the administration to remain in the UPU and not disrupt the ability for military and overseas voters to cast their ballots while serving our nation or living abroad.
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