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USPS says placing unmarked material, like political literature, in mailboxes is illegal [Lancaster Watchdog]

  • By Jade Campos/LNP | LancasterOnline
As Election Day nears, the United States Postal Service notes placing unmarked materials like political literature in mailboxes is illegal.

 Suzette Wenger / LNP | LancasterOnline

As Election Day nears, the United States Postal Service notes placing unmarked materials like political literature in mailboxes is illegal.

This story is published in partnership with our sister newsroom LNP | LancasterOnline.

With less than a week to go until Election Day, candidates and volunteers are ramping up last-minute canvassing efforts, leaving campaign materials hanging on doorknobs and stuck into nooks and crannies on porches across Lancaster County.

But if they put those campaign fliers and pamphlets in someone’s mailbox, that’s illegal.

Rob Misciagna, Columbia district leader for the Lancaster County Democratic Committee, said he believes many Columbia residents received illegally delivered political materials this weekend. Misciagna said Republican campaign literature was found in mailboxes across the borough as GOP candidates canvassed the area.

“These are all folks that really should know better,” Misciagna said. “It’s kind of just the latest instance of our local Republican campaign feeling like the rules don’t apply to them.”

Federal law prohibits anyone from putting materials into a mailbox without postage, according to the United States Postal Service — that covers anything from Christmas cards to cupcakes. Essentially, Postal Service staff members are the only people who can put things in mailboxes. Mail delivery without postage is a criminal offense.

“Any materials placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle must have postage,” Postal Service spokesperson Mark Lawrence said via email.

Lawrence said the law is meant to protect the “security of the mail,” and anyone who is found putting unmarked materials in a mailbox is subject to fines. He did not say whether anyone could put appropriate postage on campaign materials and stick them in a mailbox.

Kirk Radanovic, chairman of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, chalked up Misciagna’s claims to a “tiff between opposing campaigns.” Radanovic said party volunteers receive canvassing training every year, which emphasizes political materials cannot be placed in mailboxes.

“We recognize that these accusations are politically motivated, and question the legitimacy of the accusations given the source of information and Democrat candidates involved,” Radanovic said via email. “It is sad to see the local Democrat candidates grasping at straws to attack their opponents.”

Misciagna countered, saying placing materials directly into mailboxes would give Republicans an “advantage” by being sure a resident receives campaign information. Anything left on a doorknob or porch could blow away, he said.

Tom O’Brien, chair of county Democrats, called the federal law “standard operating procedure” and said the party regularly trains volunteers not to place materials in mailboxes.

“We prefer to knock on the door, but if we have to leave literature, we make sure it’s either put on the doorway or on the doorknob or any clear and accessible place by the door,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien recalled his own experience campaigning for his first race in 1995, when he mistakenly put political materials in mailboxes, hoping to keep them dry. He said the post office warned him about the law, noting he could be subject to a $25 fine per mailbox.

Lawrence did not respond to questions about the current rate for fines.

Misciagna said party members intend to connect with residents who received literature in their mailboxes to encourage them to file a complaint with the Postal Service. Radanovic on Wednesday afternoon said he hasn’t received word of any formal complaint but is open to speaking to Postal Service officials about any concerns.

Officials with the Columbia Borough post office did not respond to questions about whether they had received complaints about political materials.

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