Rejected absentee ballot numbers highlight need for legislative changes

Michigan

FILE – In this July 7, 2020, file photo a woman wearing gloves drops off a mail-in ballot at a drop box in Hackensack, N.J. The November election is coming with a big price tag as America faces the coronavirus pandemic. The demand for mail-in ballots is surging, election workers are in need of training and polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office is reporting the majority of disenfranchised voters in last week’s statewide primary could easily have had their votes counted with small changes in law.

Of the approximately 10,600 rejected ballots, more than 8,600 (over 80 percent) were due to signature verification issues or late arrival – issues that could be fixed by bills already introduced in the state legislature.

“The data demonstrates that thousands of people who cast otherwise valid votes were not able to participate in last week’s election solely because the Legislature failed to act ahead of the primary,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “With turnout and absentee ballot numbers expected to double or even triple in November, we could be looking at tens of thousands of Michigan citizens disenfranchised if the legislature again fails to act.”

Benson has been vocal in her calls on the Michigan Legislature to take up a series of election reform bills that would provide additional support to clerks and voters ahead of the November election. These include:

  • HB 5987 would allow mailed ballots to count if postmarked by Election Day even if they arrive up to two days later.
  • HB 5991 would require clerks to contact voters if the signature on the absentee ballot does not match the one on their registration.

Preliminary statewide totals are below — the number of late ballots may increase as a small number continues to arrive, as often happens in the weeks after an election. Full data broken down by county and jurisdiction is available here. It cannot be determined from the data how many late ballots arrived within the countable 48-hour window as prescribed in HB 5987.

Ballot LateNo Sig.Voter MovedVoter DeceasedSig. Did Not MatchVoter CancelledEnvelope, No BallotID Not ConfirmedIncarceratedTotal
6,4051,4381,111846787513124110,694

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