Recommendation About Pre-Printed Return Addresses

Individualized return addresses should not be printed on the outer envelope used to return a ballot because doing so dramatically increases the number of spoiled ballots. This advice sounds counter-intuitive, so let us explain. All associations are required to use a multiple-envelope system when conducting secret ballot elections. Cal. Civ. Code § 5115(c). The homeowner is required to sign the outer envelope. Id. § 5115(c)(1). The outer envelope is also required to have the address of the homeowner that entitles that homeowner to vote. Id. As a convenience or courtesy, some associations pre-print each homeowner’s address on the outer ballot return envelope. In Pro-EI’s experience, this is a mistake because it leads to a dramatic increase in spoiled ballots. Specifically, pre-printing homeowners’ addresses on the outer ballot envelope lead to homeowners forgetting to sign the envelope. The ballot inside an unsigned envelope cannot be counted by the inspector of elections. Cal. Civ. Code § 5115(c)(1), see also Thus, ballots inside unsigned envelopes are spoiled and the vote is not counted. When Pro Elections receives an unsigned outer ballot envelope it makes every reasonable effort to return the envelope to the homeowner so that the homeowner can sign the envelope and have his or her vote counted. Unfortunately, there is often not enough time to return unsigned envelopes to homeowners before the ballot deadline. The outer ballot envelopes provided by Pro Elections have pre-printed lines for the homeowner to write his or her address and to sign. We have found that this policy leads to many fewer spoiled ballots. RECOMMENDATION: Associations that want to minimize spoiled ballots should not preprint the homeowner’s return address on the outer ballot return envelope. Instead, they should provide preprinted lines for the homeowner to fill in the address and add their signature.