More than 1 million Americans trying to vote by mail this year can expect that their ballots will be rejected or discarded, according to an analysis based on absentee ballot rejection rates in 2016.
If the rejection rates hold steady—which is a major “if” that the authors acknowledge—at least 1.03 million ballots will be discarded, according to an analysis done by Columbia Journalism Investigations, USA Today, and PBS.
The authors assumed the same turnout as in 2016 and that half of voters will vote by mail, instead of a quarter as in 2016.
In 2016, more than 300,000 mail-in ballots were rejected, out of 41 million, which makes for a rejection rate of about 0.7 percent. If some 80 million vote by mail this year—which is roughly the amount of ballots already requested or in transit—the rejection rate could be more than 1.2 percent.
Authors assumed the same proportion of mail-in ballots county-by-county will be rejected this year as in 2016 (pdf).
“This assumption is likely problematic,” they said, because it’s usually older and richer people who vote by mail and usually have lower rejection rates than the poorer and younger people who are anticipated to vote by mail in particularly outsized numbers this year.
Moreover, many states that haven’t had as much voting-by-mail in previous elections face an uphill battle dealing with the deluge this year. Some states, such as Nevada and California, have sent ballots to everyone on their voter rolls, whether the voters requested them or not. That could lead to more blunders and mishaps, including issues with delivering the ballots to the right people, voters incorrectly completing the papers, and problems with returning the ballots to the election authorities, some experts have warned.
The 2020 primary season already yielded almost as many rejected ballots as the 2012 and 2016 general elections combined, according to Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a right-leaning election watchdog.
Churchwell didn’t blame the authors for using 2016 data, but said they should have used the 2020 primary rejection rates as a baseline instead.
“Voting by mail should never be thought as a superior replacement to polling places,” he told The Epoch Times via email. “Glitches and errors are cured in a polling place by people trained to help. Here again, the cure is proving worse than the ailment. Millions of Americans (or their elected officials) were conned into thinking that mass mail balloting was the safe and effective answer in the face of the pandemic.”
The most common reasons for rejection are a voter signature that doesn’t match the one authorities have on file, missing signature, and ballots getting returned to authorities late. More than half the states require ballots to arrive by Election Day, while the others allow later arrivals as long as the ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day. Texas, for example, allows one more day, Pennsylvania allows three days, New York allows 10 days, and California 17 days.
As of Oct. 13, more than 10 million have already voted, either early in person or by mail, according to the U.S. Election Project.