Officials with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas say their volunteers are no longer allowed to leave voter registration forms at U.S. post offices.
Grace Chimene, the group’s president, said volunteers have been turned away in the past week while trying to drop off basic voter materials. She said it started late last week when she heard from a volunteer in Waller County.
“He was very frustrated,” she said. “He did talk to the [staff] and found out that there was some directive that came down that said that they were not allowed to have voter registration forms in the post office.”
A spokesperson for the USPS said in a statement there hasn’t been any rule change.
“The Postal Service has not changed its policies on voter registration activities or displaying voter registration information in lobbies,” the statement said. “[There are] specific limitations and conditions that apply to in-person voter registration drives that may occur in public areas of postal facilities during an appropriate period before an election. But this is different from depositing unattended stacks or boxes of forms or other materials.”
Chimene said the USPS’s response “doesn’t make any sense.” In the past, she said, her group has often left stacks of voter registration forms at post offices.
Voters have been directed to pick up forms at USPS offices, she said. 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.”
Chimene said USPS offices are government offices and therefore have had voter registration forms available. She said her group had planned to put more forms in post offices than usual because the pandemic has forced libraries and schools to close.
“Now we can’t do that,” she said. “It just limits the options during this vital time in our election season when voters need to be able to register to vote.”
Texas’ ban on online voter registration also limits the ability for people to register, Chimene said. The pandemic has made it harder for voter registrars to hold drives in public spaces, which has led to a drop in registration in parts of the state.
The situation is the latest in a slew of problems with the U.S. Post Office ahead of the presidential election. USPS officials warned Texas and other states about potential problems with delivering mail-in ballots.
As a result, voters have been urged to turn in mail-in ballots as early as possible. Local officials are also coming up with ways for voters to legally drop off these ballots, without relying on mail service.
Chimene said the League of Women Voters of Texas has reached out to the Texas Secretary of State’s office to let it know the group is being turned away from USPS offices. She said it is considering sending a letter to the postmaster general, as well.
While not having voter registration forms in post offices may not be an issue in other states, Chimene said, it could affect Texans.
“Here in Texas — and other states that don’t have online voter registration — this needs to be allowed,” she said. “We need to be able to tell voters where they can easily access a voter registration form. This should not be happening now. This is too important.”
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Ashley Lopez is a reporter for WGCU News. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
Previously, Lopez was a reporter for Miami’s NPR member station,
WLRN-Miami Herald News. Before that, she was a reporter at The Florida Independent. She also interned for Talking Points Memo in New York City and WUNC in Durham, North Carolina. She also freelances as a reporter/blogger for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
- Ashley Lopez, KUT