- Dec 5, 2010
- Reaction score
The verdict won’t be final until we get data for all 50 states, but at this point, it does seem as if most states were very successful at lowering their absentee-ballot rejection rates in 2020 — and it’s important that we take note of how they did it. Last fall’s efforts to keep rejection rates low weren’t undertaken automatically; they were born out of experience, good and bad.
For many states, the number of rejected absentee ballots turned out to be an incredible success story. What’s behind this remarkable success? Election-administration experts cite several factors, but a big one was that voters submitted their absentee ballots early. That’s important because, in a normal election, the number-one reason that absentee ballots are not counted is that they arrive too late. But in 2020, several states reported steep dropoffs in the share of absentees received after the deadline.
One reason for this is obvious: Voters heeded election officials’ exhortations to send back their absentee ballots as early as possible. Ubiquitous reminders in the media and saturation coverage of problems at the U.S. Postal Service likely helped, too. But states by and large also proactively changed their election policies to prevent ballots from getting tossed due to lateness. Several states extended their deadlines so that ballots could arrive after Election Day (as long as they were properly postmarked), including Massachusetts.
Ballot lateness wasn’t the only problem that got better in 2020. Some states also cut into the second-most common reason absentee ballots tend to get rejected: voter error, such as a missing or invalid signature on the ballot envelope. For example, 15 states plus Washington, D.C., began offering voters the ability to “cure,” or fix mistakes on, their absentee ballots, according to Amber McReynolds and Grace Beyer of the National Vote at Home Institute. (That’s on top of the 17 states that already allowed ballot-curing before 2020.)