How to avoid ‘rejection’ in a record year for mail-in voting

Posted at 10:18 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 23:18:14-04

MILWAUKEE — If you have a mail-in ballot in your hands, the clock is ticking to get it in. But don't rush through it and make mistakes.

Election officials say you need to take your time and fill out the ballot and envelope correctly, or run the risk of having your vote rejected.

"A ballot gets rejected if it doesn't have a signature on it or a witnesses' signature or address," said Reid Magney, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

As Magney explained, mail-in ballots can be bounced for a list of reasons including that missing witness signature, an envelope that was not sealed, or a ballot that arrived at the clerk's office after the deadline.

In the past, mail-in ballot volume was low and so were rejections.

For the 2016 presidential election, about 3 million voters cast a ballot, only 144,802 of them through the mail or in-person absentee.

Another 11,447 voters mailed in a ballot that was rejected.

That's about .3 percent of all the votes cast.

All that changed this spring as a presidential primary and the COVID-19 pandemic collided.

In that election, mail-in voting exploded to levels never seen before.

Out of 1.5 million ballots cast, 964,433 came through the mail or in-person absentee.

Another 20,537 mail-in votes were not counted because they were rejected.

That's 1.4 percent of the ballots cast... Nearly 5 times more than in 2016.

While the number of mail-in ballots could be double that on November 3rd, Reid Magney says voters are better informed and the rejection rate should be lower.

"The deadlines were just so tight back in April and really, most voters are going to have 47 days to get a ballot, find a witness, all those things. Time has been our friend with this," he said.

If a voter does make an error, time is again on their side.

Clerks have had weeks to track down voters and let them know they are at risk of being rejected.

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