Decision 2020

States Reject Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots in This Year's Primaries, Setting Off Alarm Bells for November

Mail voting is the safest method in a pandemic. But pitfalls could trip up a potentially decisive number of people

Voting stations are set up for the primary election at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Monday, June 22, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. With one polling place designated for Louisville on Tuesday, voters who didn’t cast mail-in ballots could potentially face long lines in Kentucky’s unprecedented primary election.
AP Photo/Piper Blackburn

More than a dozen states drastically expanded the ability of eligible voters to cast a ballot by mail in this year's primary elections due to the coronavirus public health emergency, NBC News reports.

But that expansion — necessary, government and public health officials have argued, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — has strained systems accustomed to handling only thousands of mail-in or absentee ballots at a time, causing weeks of delays in counting that have experts worried that Election Day in November could drag into Election Week.

The flood of additional mail ballots in the primaries has also revealed another problem that could have enormous consequences for November: a sharp increase in ballot rejections. Ballots can be tossed for voter errors like not signing in all the right places, having a signature that doesn't exactly match one's voter registration signature, or reaching election officials too late.

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