On Monday, election data released by the California Secretary of State’s Office revealed that over 100,000 mail-in ballots in California were rejected in the March presidential primary, 1.5% of the 7 million mail-in ballots sent in.
102,428 rejected ballots in California
The most common reason for ballot rejection during the primary was missing the election deadline. As state law only allows mailed in ballots with a postmark date of election day within 3 days of the election, any ballot that didn’t come in by that Friday was not counted. Of the 102,428 ballots that were rejected, 70,330 had come after the acceptable date.
An additional 27,525 ballots were also rejected because of no signatures or unmatched signatures, with nearly 900 ballots not being accepted because the voter forgot to insert their ballot into the envelope before sending it off.
Discrepancies were also noted to vary widely between counties.
Rural counties such as Modoc, Plumas, and Siskiyou reported few, if any, rejected ballots while San Francisco County had nearly 5% of all ballots rejected. High levels of ballot rejections were also reported in the counties of Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego and other high population counties.
The total 1.5% of rejected ballots was higher than the 1.4% nationwide rejection rate and the highest in California elections since 2010.
“This is 100,000 of 7 million,” said Los Angeles voting advocate Alejandro Diaz to the California Globe. “That’s a lot.”
“In March me and several other people helped a lot of voters across LA and Orange counties with the mail-in ballots, and there were a lot of questions over language issues, when to put the ballot in by, signatures, and more. And look at today, all of those same problems are shown to have had a huge effect on the primary.”
“With COVID, we can’t exactly stop mail-in ballots, but we need a better way so no vote is discounted or not accepted.”
“It’s not a party issue either. I’ve helped Spanish-speaking citizens in LA who were all for Bernie and retired people out in Orange County all for Trump. And they all said they wanted everyone’s vote to count. Regardless of who you’re for, this is a cornerstone of democracy. And it’s failing almost 2 voters out of every 100 in California.”
Questions over mail-in ballots in California
While President Donald Trump has called into question the safety of mail-in voting due to allegations of fraud, the chances of mail-in voting fraud are very low, with only 143 cases out of over 250 million ballots since the 2000 election. Subsequently, many states have made new laws for the 2020 fall election to provide every registered voter in the state a mail-in ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including California via the recently passed AB 860. While this has raised new concerns, such as ballots being sent to deceased people and worries over intercepted ballots that could be voted on, risk remains low and a better alternative to in-person voting has yet to be announced. AB 860 even included an ‘inactive voter amendment‘ to stop the sending of any redundant ballots.
The importance of health safety has only been reiterated by Californian officials such as Secretary of State Alex Padilla who has said that there is “no safer way to exercise your right to vote than from the safety and convenience of your own home.”
But Monday’s release of ballot data has only bolstered those who don’t want mail-in ballots to be sent out automatically.
“We have close elections in Orange County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, the Central Valley, around Sacramento and San Diego, and that’s just state races,” added Diaz. “That 1.5%, should the vast majority vote from home, along with any other election hiccups, can alter those races. We had state and Congressional races last year where it was within a few percentage points of being decided a different way. One race was less than 1,000 votes away from being decided differently.”
“And look, the GOP is trying to take back Orange County. There’s a close vote for the San Diego Mayor. A lot is on the line. And we’re going with a system that rejects so many votes. A lot of people can’t vote in-person. COVID and being autoimmune compromised and everything. Fine, but we need to fix this percentage or else we’re going to see a lot of close votes that should have gone the other way.”
California election officials are due to start sending out 2020 ballots for Californians this fall following the end of the state Legislative session.