A Montana senator who faces a tough challenge to keep his seat in November is charging that closing postal facilities this year will compromise voting rights.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wrote a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe this week saying that closing facilities could prevent absentee ballots from reaching polling locations by Election Day. Forty-seven percent of Montana voters cast absentee ballots in 2010, a threefold increase from 2000.
The Postal Service agreed to suspend closures until at least May 15 and again during the general election season this fall, but Tester wants to extend the closure moratorium to include this year’s primary elections, falling on June 5 in Montana.
“Montana and many other states will hold primary elections outside of that suspension period,” Tester wrote. “…I am concerned that any new system would not be efficient enough to address such a large volume of time-sensitive mail.”
“I request that you delay all mail processing facility closures until the start of 2013. This delay would allow for the Montana Legislature – and legislatures in other states – to better determine if and how vote-by-mail laws should be changed to accommodate impending dramatic changes to the Postal Service,” Tester asked.
“If changes must be made which would affect Montana’s primary election, I ask how you will ensure that you are protecting Montanans’ right to vote? Will you consider hand-canceling ballots or providing ballot drop boxes at local post offices?”
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) is edging out the first-term senator in the polls.