Allegations of voter fraud make for dramatic headlines, and many have appeared on social media in different forms since President Donald Trump started pushing such claims as early as the 2016 election. Most of these have proven to be unfounded or isolated in nature.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots, however, are rejected or discarded each election for a number of reasons. More than 550,000 absentee ballots were rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, according to an analysis by NPR. Studies show that young first-time voters and people of color have more ballots rejected than other groups.
Why would ballots be discarded or rejected?
The most common reasons for rejection include signatures not matching and missed deadlines. Some rules may seem silly, or unnecessary, but it is important to abide by them. Read on to learn how to get it right.
How to fill out a mail-in ballot
Read the instructions carefully. Follow them to indicate your choice of candidates and make sure you use the right ink color. Ballots can’t have stray marks. Treat the ballot carefully and avoid tears. If the ballot is unreadable and can’t be processed, it will be discarded.
Most states require voters to sign an affidavit on the outside of the envelope containing the mail ballot to affirm identity and eligibility to vote. Make sure you sign that envelope. Some states verify your ballot by matching the signature from the voter registration form. Others use the signature on file with the government, such as the signature on a driver’s license. Find out the rules where you live. Depending on the state, you might also need a signature from a witness, or a notary.
Return the ballot as soon as possible
Follow the directions for placing the ballot inside its envelope. Do not use your own envelope. Some states count only ballots that are received by Election Day. Other states say they’ll count ballots that arrive late if they’re postmarked on or before Election Day. Mail ballot with time to spare. There also may be other options; some communities have ballot drop boxes available.
States that count ballots received after Election Day
Many states require that the ballot is received by Election Day. Twenty states and Washington, D.C., will count ballots that arrive after Nov. 3, but deadlines differ.
Track mail-in ballot
Just 19 states have a process requiring election officials to notify voters if problems occur with their ballots and offer an opportunity to fix them, according to Votingrightslab.org.
According to an analysis by the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonpartisan group that advocates for states to make it easier to cast ballots from home, 47 states and the District of Columbia now have online portals that allow voters to track the status of their ballots every step of the way.
In the majority of states, all voters have access to a statewide ballot tracking system. Entering your name, address, date of birth and other details into the portal will allow you to see the status of the ballot.
Some states offer local ballot tracking. It’s usually implemented by a city or county and allows some voters at a local level to track their ballot at every stage of the voting process. In five states, voters are contacted by the state regarding ballot tracking instead of voters having to search for the information themselves.
Was my mail-in ballot received?
Here is how you can track your ballot in different states: