NPR (AUDIO): In many states, there’s a process to fix an error with your ballot
NPR (AUDIO): In many states, there's a process to fix an error with your ballot
During big U.S. elections, hundreds of thousands of mail ballots are typically thrown out and left uncounted. In 2020, for instance, more than 560,000 ballots were rejected (that’s nearly 1% of the total).
Experts say ballot rejections are largely the result of relatively minor voter errors, often associated with security measures that are designed to verify a voter’s identity.
That’s why about half of states have a process in place to help voters fix their mail ballots if they do make a mistake. It’s known as ballot curing. …
Voters make mistakes. Oftentimes ballots don’t get returned by the deadline required by the state. But Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections at Common Cause, says many voters also get tripped by requirements on a mail ballot.
Depending on where you live, your state might require you to provide a signature that matches one on file, voter ID information such as a driver’s license, or a date.
She says all these “little checks” are opportunities for human error.
Plus, Albert says, voting at home means you are on your own, for the most part.
“You don’t have an election worker there who can answer any questions you have or direct you to anyone else who can help,” she says. “You are just alone on your kitchen table.”
Sometimes, Albert says, voters completely miss the field to provide their ID information or their signature. Other times, election officials have a hard time checking ID numbers or signatures against what’s in their system. …
There’s also a big variety in how you find out if your ballot was rejected.
Many states allow you to track your ballot with an online portal that shows you when your ballot is received and then processed. These sites will often also let you know if your ballot is rejected. Sometimes it will list a reason why.
But for the most part, voters are contacted directly by local election officials if their ballot has been rejected. This could be a letter or a call. Or in some cases, like in Colorado, local officials might have a texting program to alert voters.
Some voters don’t have access to landlines, don’t check their mail often, or simply don’t have consistent access to the internet. …
Common Cause’s Albert says it also depends what your state allows local officials to do when they are trying to contact voters.
“Some of that is set in state law,” Albert says, “and some legislatures are not really interested in providing more leeway to election officials to reach out to those voters.”