Understanding postage paid mail: not simple!

I’ve experienced a long day of education–or should I say reeducation–at the hands of my friends in the elections community.

Business reply mail allows a sender (“the mailer”) to distributed preprinted First-Class mail to customers.  The return postage is paid by the mailer, not the customer.  Postage is collected on a per-piece fee only on pieces that are returned.  One colleague in the elections community says this cost is approximately twice the normal first class postage. The rate for BRM is .476 + .011 – .476 + .066 per piece depending on volume (and some account fees).Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.14.56 PM

I have another good friend who is rapidly sawing away, because he tells me that business reply mail does dramatically increase response rates for registration mailers and change of address mailers, so he believes that prepaid postage will increase turnout and increase by-mail return rates. I’m trying to get more information on this…


The cost of requiring postage on all ballots will be the annual account fees plus either .487 or .542 per piece of  returned mail.  The current by-mail return rate is approximately 40%.   There is almost no incentive to switch to actual first class postage until the rate of by-mail return exceeds 90%, and that’s not likely.


What’s interesting is that legislation that would require pre-paid postage might actually create fairly strong incentives to encourage citizens to drop off their ballots.

That may be an unintended consequence of the legislation, though not necessarily a bad one.  One common criticism of voting by mail is that ballots leave the hands of government officials; drop boxes eliminate that on the back end.

I leave this to those with much more expertise in direct mailing to point out the flaws in this logic.  I’ve learned more about business reply mail in the last two days than I ever wanted to know!  (Memories of my days learning about signature verification software …)