As state officials push to expand access to mail-in voting ahead of the November election, a new report is highlighting a few problems that have left thousands of voters’ ballots uncounted due to no fault of their own.
A new report by NPR found that some 65,000 absentee ballots have been rejected this year alone because they arrived after the deadline for mail-in ballots.
Another issue mail-in ballots have previously gone uncounted is due to the form not having a signature.
While the report found that in most states, the percentage of rejected mail-in ballots represented about 1% of all the votes cast by mail, it could be enough to make a difference in the outcome of a close election.
This report comes as many states have moved to make mail-in voting more accessible to ensure Americans can cast their ballot without risking potential exposure to COVID-19 by going to a physical polling location.
Democrats are challenging laws in 10 states that require ballots to arrive on or before Election Day. They have argued are that delays in mail deliveries may lead to their votes being rejected at not fault of their own.
However, Republicans argue that relaxing deadlines for mail-in ballots could delay the results of the election and sow concerns about the validity of the results.
A separate report in The Washington Post found that 1% of the 33.2 million mail-in ballots cast in the 2016 election were rejected due to a variety of reasons, including: The ballot did not have a signature, it arrived after the deadline, or there was a “problem with return envelope.”
In contrast, the Post said that a third fewer in-person votes were rejected.
The Post also found that younger and minority voters made up the largest demographic of voters who saw their ballots rejected in 2018. NPR’s study found similar results in terms of which voting blocs saw their mail-in ballots rejected.
Additionally, the report suggests new voters may see their ballots rejected because they do not know how long in advance they have to send in their ballots to ensure they arrive before the deadline. Or they may not know how much postage to use when they send in their ballots.
And, voters who cast their ballots by mail do not have the assistance of a polling station worker to help them if they have a problem.
The Post also suggested that local officials could do a better job of educating voters on the process of mail-in voting, provide prepaid postage, helping voters send their ballots in, and change laws to require that ballots are counted if they are postmarked by Election Day to help ensure more voters’ ballots are counted.