Mail-in ballots are being rejected at surprisingly low rates

Kathryn Krawczyk
·2 min read

Every year, absentee ballots are often flagged for errors, typically because a voter failed to sign their ballot's envelope or because their signature doesn't match one on file. If a voter doesn't fix the mistake, their ballot will end up nullified — an especially relevant outcome in a year when record numbers of Americans are voting by mail.

But Jen O'Malley Dillon, Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign manager, said Monday that it seems rejection rates in critical swing states are at record lows. While 1 percent of ballots were rejected in the 2016 general election, just 0.3 percent in Florida, 0.4 percent in Michigan, and 0.1 percent in Wisconsin have been rejected so far, O'Malley Dillon said. Election experts had predicted more than 1 percent of ballots would be rejected, as many voters were unfamiliar with voting by mail.

Florida's process for handling those flagged ballots may reveal why its rejection rates are so low. While nearly 450,000 ballots were returned as of Friday in Miami-Dade County, its election department has only flagged 2,816 ballots for irregularities, the Miami Herald reports. That's because local officials have spent the past few weeks reaching out to voters with ballot problems and helping them to correct the errors. The fact that 138,000 voters brought their ballots directly to an early voting site, where an election official could make sure they signed an envelope, surely helped.

But while rejection rates have been historically low, ballots that are rejected have disproportionately come from people of color. In Florida and Georgia, Black, Hispanic, and Asian voters' ballots have been flagged at twice the rate of white voters, an analysis from NBC News and Democratic data firm TargetSmart shows. Those voters have until Thursday to fix their ballots or they won't count toward the very tight races in their states.

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