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Election laws may change. Here’s a look at 2020’s rejected ballots

  | St. Cloud Times


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All the ways to vote in the 2020 election

As long as absentee voters’ ballots are postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 10, they will be counted.

Jenny Berg, [email protected]

There’s no question 2020 was a historic election year between the pandemic and Joe Biden’s win over incumbent Donald Trump. 

Minnesota election officials sent out roughly 2.2 million absentee ballots for the 2020 general election, nearly three times more than in the 2016 general election, according to data from the Office of the Secretary of State. 

Not all those ballots were returned and not all were accepted.

Fear of voter fraud continues to loom over the Minnesota Legislature as lawmakers hash out bills, including proposed election policy changes, in the last five weeks of the session. Claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election have not been substantiated anywhere across the U.S. 

All told, 1.9 million Minnesotans voted absentee and their votes were accepted and counted. More than 20,000 — or 1% — of returned absentee ballots were rejected, often because of procedural errors. 

County attorneys must report to the state any investigations into potential illegal voting. But reports from the Minnesota’s 2020 general election are not due until October. 

DFLers in the House want to ease some voting laws and allow people on probation for felony crimes to vote. Senate Republicans want to require photo identification at polling places. 

RELATED: Voter ID or finance reform? Parties split on how to improve Minnesota’s election system

Here’s a look at rejected absentee ballots from the 2020 general election to shed light why ballots were rejected. 

Less than 1% of rejected absentee ballots, 126 in total, were rejected because the voter had died.

Sometimes people die after they mail in or drop off their ballots, said David Maeda, director of elections for the Minnesota Office of Secretary of State. Counties compare their data with death data from the Minnesota Department of Health. 

When a woman posted on Facebook that she applied for an absentee ballot for her deceased mother, Maeda sent the tip to the FBI, he said. And the FBI investigated it. 

“We do take all these allegations seriously,” Maeda said. 

Nearly 2%, or 372 rejected absentee ballots were rejected because the voter had already voted. 

Another 4% were rejected because they were received late, either by mail or by a staffer. 

More than 5% of the rejected absentee ballots last fall were rejected because the voter name or address did not match. 

“The majority of absentee ballots that get rejected are not because somebody’s ineligible (to vote),” Maeda said. “It’s because they make a mistake either on their application or on their signature envelope — something doesn’t match up.”

The main reasons for ballot rejection are as follows:

  • No voter signature: 15%
  • Voter number and sign didn’t match: 27%
  • Non-registered voter with a missing or incomplete voter registration form: 24%
  • Witness signature or other details missing: 22%.

Voters whose ballots were rejected within five days of the election received a replacement ballot by mail, Maeda said. Closer to Election day, counties had to call or email voters to let them know that their absentee ballot was missing something. 

“Each county and in some cases, cities, have what’s called an Absentee Ballot Board, with typically two election judges of different political parties,” Maeda said. “They’re comparing the information on the signature envelope that the voter put their ballot in against the actual application that was submitted to get a ballot. The two people compare the information and if they’re convinced it matches, then they accept the ballot.”

About 80% of eligible voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in the November election, amounting to nearly 3.3. million ballots. More than half, 58%, came as absentee ballots. 

Nora Hertel is the government watchdog reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-255-8746 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @nghertel.

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