Sep 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

AP: Mail-in ballot rejections could disenfranchise thousands in 2020

Illustration of an I Voted sticker with a question mark at the end, "I Voted?"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If mail-in ballots are rejected in the 2020 election at the same level as this year's primaries, "up to three times as many voters in November could be disenfranchised" in battleground states compared to the 2016 election, AP reports.

Why it matters: Americans are expected to vote by mail in record numbers in November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Details: Ballots can be rejected if voters forget to sign them, signatures don't match those held at local election offices, or ballots arrive too late through the mail, per AP.

  • Understaffed election offices could have a difficult time notifying voters of problems with their ballot in time to fix them — especially since officials in key states like Pennsylvania have to wait until Election Day to sort through ballots.
  • The U.S. Postal Service has seen declines in on-time delivery for priority mail in the last few months, after it warned 46 states that it cannot ensure ballots sent by mail in the general election will arrive in time to be counted.

For example, nearly 43,000 Pennsylvania voters could be disenfranchised in November if voter turnout stays unchanged from 2016 and ballot rejections are on course with the state's primary, AP reports — nearly the same number of votes Trump won over Hillary Clinton when he won the state in 2016.

What to watch: Vote-by-mail rejections could have an outsized effect in areas concentrated with Democratic votes, per AP, since Democratic applications for absentee ballots have surged.

Go deeper: How to prepare for an election facing unprecedented threats

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