I admit it. I’m concerned about using a mail-in ballot for the upcoming election.
This has nothing to do with political affiliation. There are just too many points of failure in the mail-in process that could possibly invalidate my ballot without me ever finding out. Once I complete that ballot and drop it in my mailbox, I will never know if it was counted or not.
In 2016, a total of 318,728 voters across the country were unaware their absentee ballots were rejected and subsequently not counted. There are many reasons for votes being rejected. Still, the top three reasons have nothing to do with the ballots themselves.
The top reason is simple. The voter forgot to provide a signature on the envelope. Absentee ballots must be placed inside a specific envelope that is considered an affidavit, requiring your signature to prove you are you. If you don’t sign the affidavit, they don’t even open the envelope. Also, don’t make the mistake of “sealing” the affidavit envelope with tape. That’s an immediate disqualification also.
The number two reason is the signature on the affidavit doesn’t match the signature on file for your voter registration. I’m not sure what my signature on file looks like. I’ve voted in every election since 1975, providing a signature every time. How would I know which signature they are verifying? If verifying with my signature from last year, I’m confident the signatures will match. If verifying against my signature as a high school senior, I’m a little concerned.
The third highest reason for disqualification of my mail-in ballot I have no control over. It arrived (or was postmarked) late. It doesn’t matter when it goes in the mailbox, only when it gets processed.
Absentee voting, by request, has been available and successful in most states for many years in a limited capacity. Many Americans with multiple residences, the handicapped, the elderly and the military have been the largest segments of the population to make use of absentee balloting.
But experts agree there is a learning curve to mail-in voting. First time users of absentee ballots are much more likely to make the types of mistakes that will cause rejections. In the 2020 Primaries, more than 550,000 mail-in ballots were rejected across the country, including 84,000 of the more than 400,000 absentee voters in New York State alone (that’s more than 20 percent). Those numbers are staggering.
Sadly, rejection numbers don’t tell the entire story since they only include ballots rejected before processing. No matter what you may read about on Facebook, there is no way to accurately count ballots that never get delivered. That’s an entirely different issue. However, even if your ballot was signed correctly, verified and delivered, it may not be counted because of a mistake on the form itself.
Sometimes people don’t completely fill in the circle for their selection or they fill in more than one. Others might circle the candidate’s name. More than 1 percent of absentee ballots that are initially validated don’t get counted because of errors that can easily be corrected if you voted in person before leaving the building.
At least when voting in person, someone is there to assist you until you get a confirmation your vote was processed. Poll workers agree that both the young and old make silly mistakes on their ballot that can be easily corrected after the initial “scan” attempt fails.
Nassau County is starting early voting 10 days before the designated Election Day of Nov. 3. They have included not one, but two sets of weekends (Oct. 24/25 and Oct. 31/Nov. 1) for you to cast an early vote. How much more convenient can you get?
This election is too important to question if my ballot may or may be counted. It shouldn’t be dismissed because I still can’t color within the lines.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.