Projecting Rejected Absentee Ballots in the 2020 General Election
From PBS, October, 2020 (excerpts)
…This November we can expect historic levels of voting by mail. Experts believe at least half of the electorate will vote absentee, millions for the first time. If the rate of rejected mail ballots from 2016 is about the same this time around, the CJI analysis found that more than one million voters are likely to have their ballots tossed out….
We used the only source for national election administration data—the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS)—from the 2016 general election….
Elections across the U.S. are run on the local-level. The county most commonly runs elections, but in a few states, they are administered on a hyper-local level: by parish, ward or municipality. Wisconsin for example runs elections by ward, and has over 1,800 election offices. For a few states, we chose to aggregate the data up to the county level which provided a more robust sample size and the ability to merge in demographic data. Our final dataset has 3,114 jurisdictions….
When data was still missing and couldn’t be calculated, we first imputed the state-level mean values. The state average was applied to 58 jurisdictions in Texas, 12 jurisdictions in Arkansas, 10 in New Mexico, and one in Hawaii and Maine. If the state had not reported any data (e.g. Alabama did not report the number of rejected absentee ballots), we imputed the national mean….
As reported in the EAVS 2016 report, absentee ballots that arrive late is the most common reason ballots are tossed. A few states however report all missing numbers for the “ballot not received on time/missed deadline” including Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, and Rhode Island. We reached out to these states to confirm that they do in fact count a late ballot as rejected, and received confirmation from Alabama, Mississippi and Rhode Island that late ballots are considered rejected. In Illinois some jurisdictions do classify late ballots as rejected ballots while other jurisdictions do not—considering them instead as unreturned….
Two states presented data quality issues that led to their exclusion from the analysis. Connecticut and Hawaii both indicate that they transmitted fewer ballots to voters than were submitted. In Connecticut, military and overseas (UOCAVA) voters are counted among ballots that were submitted but not among those that were transmitted. Given the data quality problems and the lack of workarounds to correct them, we decided to exclude both of these states….
Our goal was to estimate the expected number of rejected ballots if more people vote by mail in 2020 than in the 2016 general election. Given the increase in mail balloting in the 2020 primaries, the number of mail ballot requests for November already, and the growing spread of the coronavirus, it’s likely to be the case....
read … Full Report
Related: 2020 Election Could Hinge on Whose Votes Don’t Count