Kate Albright / Montclair Local
Mail-in polls, which are expected to be carried out by tens of millions of Americans in November, have potential problems. Hundreds of thousands of ballots are not counted each year because people make mistakes, e.g. B. forgot to sign the form or send it in too late.
An NPR analysis has shown that at least 65,000 postal ballot or postal ballot papers have been rejected in the area codes held so far this year because they were received after the deadline, often through no fault of the voters.
Although the numbers are relatively small – around 1% in most states – they could prove crucial in a tight election, especially one where many more voters have to submit postal ballot papers and ballot papers to avoid them to vote during a pandemic.
First-time mail-in polls – especially young, black, and Latin American voters – are more likely to be rejected because of mistakes, said Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying the election administration.
“This is the kind of thing that worries me about what will happen in November when there is an even greater influx of people who haven’t voted in the past or haven’t voted in the mail,” he says.
The political parties and voting groups know exactly what it’s about and have launched aggressive legal campaigns to shape the November rules.
Democrats and voter associations have filed lawsuits in at least 10 countries and challenged laws requiring postal ballot papers to be received by or before election day. They urge the judges to allow ballots to be accepted as long as they are stamped until election day, as voters may encounter difficulties due to the pandemic and late mail delivery.
The Republican Party and the electoral integrity groups are fighting back. They argue that extending the deadline will undermine public confidence in the results, which could take weeks. They also insist without evidence that this will increase the potential for fraud – a position that President Trump has repeatedly taken.
In the meantime, voters have been confused, discouraged, and in some cases disenfranchised.
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Susie Sonneborn of Montclair, New Jersey, said she tried to be extra careful to make sure her ballot paper was stamped in time when she voted in a mayor race in May. However, when she heard that more than 1,100 ballots – 9% of the total – had been rejected, she asked the local polling station and was shocked to find that her ballot was one of them.
“It was really disappointing and surprising that I was set for failure by following the instructions on the ballot,” she says. Sonneborn insists that she saw nowhere that her ballot paper had to be received within two days of the election, which was particularly frustrating because the mayor’s race was decided with only 195 votes. On the day the new mayor was sworn in, the residents held a rally in front of the town hall and asked officials to “count every vote” in future elections.
Other states also report a large number of rejected ballots. Over 5% were not counted in Virginia’s June elementary school because they were late. More than 1% of Pennsylvania and Nevada ballots were also not counted for the same reason last month.
In Wisconsin’s chaotic April area code, 2,659 ballots were rejected for missing the deadline, but the number could have been much higher. Around 79,000 ballots were received after election day, but within a period of six days that was permitted in an emergency.
Tens of thousands of other ballots have been discarded for other reasons this year, mostly due to a missing or mismatched signature. Last week, the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in New York State, where more than 34,000 postal ballot papers – or 14% of the total – were rejected in 2018. The group wants voters to be able to correct issues before their ballots are discarded.
The lawsuit is part of a barrage of litigation over mail-in voting this year.
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Democrats and progressive groups are suing for a change in the rules in Florida, where 18,504 email ballots – more than 1.3% of the total – were rejected for various reasons, including missed deadlines, in the state’s March area code. The lawsuit argues that postal ballot papers do not have to be stamped until 7 p.m. on election day and do not have to be received.
Kirk Nielsen, the plaintiff in the case, says that the fate of a ballot paper is not in the hands of a voter once it is mailed. It was one of thousands of ballots that were rejected in the state in 2018. Nielsen says he sent it eight days before election day, but only eight days later. He is worried about being disenfranchised.
“I want to vote by mail this year about the pandemic. I don’t want to get sick from a crowded polling station. Still, I think there is an even greater risk this year of voting by mail that my postal ballot paper may not be correct.” counted along with thousands of others, “says Nielsen.
His case is due to be heard this month, but Republicans were encouraged by the judge’s refusal to issue an injunction against the state’s mail-in rules.
The judge said that election day deadline “eliminates the problem of missing, unclear, or even changed postmarks, eliminates delays that may have adverse consequences, and removes the remote possibility that Florida could have had a person in an extremely narrow election not voted on or before election day and can fill out and submit a ballot later. “
These are all arguments that the Republicans have put forward to meet the deadline for election day that currently applies in most states.
“If large quantities of ballot papers arrive or the counting continues after election day, this can really lead to fraud,” said Mandi Merritt, national spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “It enables the loss of candidates or other partisans to find late votes that could potentially change the legitimate outcome of an election, and really leaves room for unnecessary litigation.”
While not offering an example, Merritt said that even the possibility of fraud would undermine voters’ confidence in the results.
Most election officials would disagree that candidates could “find votes later” to change the results, but some are concerned about extending the deadline for other reasons.
Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State, thinks voters will be confused if the deadline is moved so shortly before the election, especially in a year when the pandemic has changed voting in so many other ways. She says it takes time to educate the public and implement changes that can be more complicated than people think.
“It is assumed that every piece of mail is automatically stamped, and that is simply not the case,” says Hobbs. “Our ballots are paid postage-free, so they are sent with bulk permits, and often these mail pieces are not stamped.”
Hobbs says a postmark period would require the state to agree with post offices to provide such postmarks, or to develop another system for tracking ballots.
Arizona has recently reached an agreement with progressive groups that have asked for the election term to be extended. The state has agreed to improve voter education and publicity programs and to promote other options, including dropboxes, in which voters can leave their postal votes for later pickup by election officials. Hobbs says this option allows voters to submit their ballot papers on time without taking the risk of being exposed to the corona virus at the post office or at a polling station.
A number of states have increased the use of drop boxes. But the Republican National Committee and Trump campaign don’t like this option either. You recently filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania, arguing that such drop boxes are unsafe, prone to fraud, and should be banned.