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Are Mail-In Ballots Reliable?

By: Vanessa Hsieh

Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, voting methods have changed for the next presidential election. Although voting in-person is still accessible, citizens can also vote by mail if they are uncomfortable going to voting places. Voters can fill out a ballot at home by simply requesting one online and printing it out at home. To officially cast a vote, individuals will need to either drop it off in-person at a secure ballot drop-off location or send it in by mail. 

This year, many citizens will be voting by mail for the first time, and this raises the possibility of a high number of rejected ballots. In the 2016 election, about 318,700 ballots were rejected throughout the nation. A recent study has shown that around 550,000 ballots were rejected this year already, and the number will continue to rise until Election Day. The study has found that first-time mail-in voters are three times more likely to have their ballot rejected compared to past mail-in voters. In addition, researchers have found that black, Hispanic, and young people are more likely to have their ballots rejected. The biggest concern of mail-in ballots is that a large number of rejected ballots may affect the outcome of the presidential election. 

So, why are many ballots rejected? Most notably, there are twice as many steps needed to be done when voting by mail. Citizens need to be careful when reading instructions and staying up to date with deadlines. Many individuals forget or even miss important information when completing the ballot because “technical requirements are not communicated well in almost all states.” The most common reasons for rejected ballots involve signatures and postmark dates. A ballot may contain a missing or a mismatched signature, causing it to be discarded. Voters with disabilities, non-native English speakers, racial minorities, and the elderly are more likely to have ballots rejected because of signature match issues. In some states, there is a “notice and cure” process that allows people with invalid ballots to correct their mistakes. The voters are informed if their ballot has been rejected or not and allows them to recast and preserve their vote. However, other states do not have this process established which means that these people will not know if their vote went through or not. Until November 3rd comes, we will have to wait and see if these rejected ballots will play a significant role in the upcoming election.

Photos courtesy of APnews.