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H.R. 690 (117th): Ensuring the Safety of Our Mail Act of 2021


Even though 93.2 percent of prisoners are already “male.”

Context

Mail theft carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

In fiscal year 2019, 2,067 people were convicted of mail theft nationwide. While it’s unclear exactly how many pieces of mail that correlates to, it’s presumably a miniscule fraction of a percent of the 142.6 billion pieces of mail that the U.S. Postal Service delivered that year.

If you want to report a suspected mail theft, you can do so with this mail theft form.

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Republicans led by former President Donald Trump claimed that the dramatic rise in mail-in ballots — used as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — would lead to “massive fraud” and result in a “rigged” election. Though those claims proved false, they continue circulating to this day, including the claim that a large number of ballots could be (or perhaps were) stolen.

What the bill does

The Ensuring the Safety Our Mail Act would double the maximum jail sentence for a mail theft conviction, from five years to 10 years.

It was introduced in the House on February 2, 2021 as H.R. 690, by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA42).

To be fair, Rep. Calvert has been on this issue for at least several years prior to the 2020 election, so his motivations are not solely about 2020. However, in more recent times, Rep. Calvert voted to exclude both Arizona and Pennsylvania from 2020’s Electoral College count because of supposed voting and election irregularities, including regarding mail-ballots.

Both measures failed to pass and both states’ votes for Biden were both counted. Indeed, Arizona’s $6 million dollar audit performed by a partisan company still couldn’t find evidence of fraud for any kind of voting, including mail ballots.

What supporters say

Supporters argue that mail theft is a serious crime and should be treated accordingly in the criminal code.

“According to the Postal Inspection Service, mail theft has increased by 600 percent over the past three years,” said Rep. Calvert. “It’s clear we must send a stronger message and have a more effective deterrent for would-be mail thieves. That’s why I have introduced the Ensuring the Safety of Our Mail Act, which would double the jail time for anyone convicted of mail theft. Americans deserve to rely on the safe and secure delivery of their mail.”

(Rep. Calvert’s claim that “mail theft has increased by 600 percent over the past three years” is misleading. Official reports and complaints by people increased by that amount, but that’s different than actual convictions. Indeed, mail theft convictions actually declined between fiscal years 2018 and 2019, from 2,101 to 2,067.)

What opponents say

Nobody, on either side of the aisle, will defend mail theft. However, opponents would likely say that this bill is a solution looking for a problem, considering how virtually nonexistent the problem actually is (despite how rampant some political figures claim it is).

Opponents may also say that five years is arguably already a considerable prison sentence for the crime of, potentially, stealing a single letter. Indeed, more than one-fifth of federal prisoners — 20.6 percent, to be exact — are serving sentences shorter than that.

Odds of passage

Rep. Calvert’s 2016, 2017, and 2019 versions attracted a consistently declining four Republican cosponsorstwo Republican cosponsors, and zero cosponsors, respectively. None received a committee vote, despite Republicans controlling the House for the first two iterations.

The current version has not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Last updated Feb 8, 2022. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 15, 2021.


Ensuring the Safety of Our Mail Act of 2021

This bill increases from 5 to 10 years the maximum prison term for a defendant who commits mail theft.