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Griswold: Postal union withdrawal could affect voters overseas, including military

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The United States is on a course to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union, an international body that regulates postage rates between countries, and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is imploring President Donald Trump to reverse that decision because it will "likely disenfranchise military and overseas voters."

Why it matters: Griswold says for U.S. citizens living abroad, leaving the UPU will mean they can "no longer rely on the mail service to send or receive their mailed ballots."  In addition, withdrawing from the UPU will have negative effects on the U.S. economy, and IRS communications would be impacted along with ballots, according to American Citizens Abroad, a nonprofit that provides information for citizens living overseas.

Who it affects: Overseas voters who don't mail their ballots by the withdrawal date, Oct. 17, may not be able to do so by mail and will instead have to return their ballots electronically. According to the Secretary of State's Office, 28,929 overseas Coloradans voted in 2018; 30% of those voters were military and 70% were citizens.

But Colorado is in the minority of states that allow electronic returns of ballots, and there are about 3 million voting-age citizens living abroad, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Griswold says if the withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union goes through, it may be difficult for all of those overseas to cast their votes in upcoming elections.

The background: Last October, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Postal Service to withdraw from the UPU due to a dispute between established shipping rates. Trump says the union must overhaul its rules to let each country set its own international rates for delivering small packages, according to Bloomberg. The UPU is holding an "extraordinary Congress" in late September to vote on a possible revision of those rates.

The Trump Administration has indicated that if the UPU adjusts its international rate rules, the notice to withdraw would be rescinded and the U.S. would remain in the union. If not, the U.S. will withdraw on Oct. 17.

The UPU has been in existence for nearly 150 years and has 192 member countries.

Griswold believes Trump's decision to withdraw is "part of his trade war with China." American Citizens Abroad says old rules in the UPU give China an advantage with low rates that were set when the country was still regarded as "lesser-developed." That low rate has turned into a $300 million annual deficit for the USPS.

Griswold sent a letter to Trump Tuesday urging the administration to "reverse its unprecedented decision" 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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