Why more than half a million votes for the 2020 election did not count

A George Mason University student votes in Fairfax, Va. On Tuesday, November 2, 2021.

According to the United States Electoral Assistance Commission (EAC), 560,826 mail-in ballots were rejected in the 2020 presidential election. The EAC is a federal agency established in 2002 to monitor the administration of elections in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five US territories. And it produces a post-election inquiry into the results and procedures of national elections.

As a result, more than half a million voters took the time to fill out and send out a mail-in ballot, and all for nothing.

In a sense, it’s a relatively small number. The EAC indicates that 69,560,318 mail-in ballots were counted, or 98.8% of the mail-in ballots received in the elections last November. Only 0.8 percent of those received were rejected.

And even though the number of mail-in ballots for 2020 nearly doubled from the previous presidential election, the percentage of rejected ballots has remained the same.

But still, half a million votes is a lot of people whose votes didn’t count.

I compared the number of rejected mail-in ballots to the difference in voting between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in each state, as questionable practices in some states, particularly in Pennsylvania, raised doubts about the validity of the victory. by Biden.

But even if all the rejected mail-in votes in each state had been allocated to the losing presidential candidate, it would not have made any difference to the outcome of the presidential election in any state.

Even so, those rejected votes could have made a difference in some close regional and local elections, which is why it’s important to consider what went wrong.

The first thing to notice is that the results can vary greatly from state to state.

The average rejection was 0.8 percent of the mail-in ballots received. But 14 states had a rejection rate of 1.0% or more. The six states with the highest rejection rates were: Arkansas (6.4%), Illinois (1.7%), Mississippi (2.3%), New Mexico (5.0 %), New York (3.6%) and Oklahoma (1.8%). Thus, three red states and three blue states were among the first six. [Note: The EAC survey recognizes some issues with the mail-in vote rejection counts in Ala., Ga., Kansas and Wis.]

The report also identifies the main reasons why some mail-in ballots were rejected. Non-matching signatures represented 32.8%; 13.5 percent were rejected because the voter has already voted in person; 12.1 percent were not received by the specified date and 12.1 percent did not include a signature; and 5.6 percent did not include a required witness signature.

Other reasons included: “the voter was not entitled to vote in the jurisdiction, the ballot was missing an important document (such as an affidavit or certification), the document was incomplete or insufficient, there were identification marks on the ballot, the ballot was missing a secret envelope or was outside the secret envelope. “

Even those who got everything right and sent their ballot on time may have been hampered by unintentional errors at the post office, including missing postmarks and delivery delays.

These rejected votes could have made the difference in some close elections. For example, in New York’s 22nd Congressional District race, the Republican candidate was ultimately declared the winner by 109 votes on February 8 – more than three months after the election.

There have been legal challenges regarding a number of postal votes, including whether the voter voted in the correct constituency, how the ballot was filled out and where it was cast. While the Republican ultimately won, the vote count shifted over the three months.

New York had a total of 66,746 rejected mail-in votes, or 3.6 percent of the state’s total mailings. Would the result have been different if some mail-order voters had been more careful?

Here’s the point: voting in person for those who have the option (some states have postal voting), whether during early voting or on election day, is the safest way to ensure that your vote is successful. account. There are poll observers there to ensure that voters are registered to vote in that district and complete the process successfully.

Postal voting is an important alternative for those who cannot go to the polls to vote in person, but it is the second best option.

If you want to make sure you’re not one of those people who end up wasting their time mailing a ballot, vote in person.

Merrill Matthews is a resident researcher at the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.

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