WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, June 29, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) presented its biennial Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) to Congress. The EAVS asks all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C, and five U.S. territories — American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — to provide data about the ways Americans vote and how elections are administered.
Amongst other findings, the report details the mail-in ballot rejection rate across the country in the 2022 midterms. A total of 549,824 ballots — or 1.5% of all mail-in ballots cast — were rejected.
The percentage seems small at first glance, however, races are increasingly decided by razor-thin margins, sometimes even by just one vote. In the 2020 presidential election, the 10 battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — were all within that 549,824 margin, five of which President Joe Biden won by a few ten thousand votes. Most importantly, however, every vote cast by an eligible voter deserves to be counted.
Delaware, which requires a “valid” excuse to vote by mail, had the highest rejection rate at 13.2% or 2,896 votes. Delaware’s rejection rate jumped from 5.0% in 2018 and 1.3% in 2020. The other four states with the highest rejections rates were Arkansas (6.8% or 1,144 votes), Texas (3.4% or 12.575 votes), Kentucky (3.3% or 2,457 votes) and South Carolina (3.2% or 1,818 votes).
Fifteen states still require a reason to vote by mail — a condition many states removed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the EAVS found that these states overall had higher rejection rates and 11 of the 15 states were found to be above the national average rejection rate of 1.5%.
States were provided with 16 different reasons why mail-in ballots were rejected. The top reported reason was “Other.” However, the next top two reasons are the products of restrictive policies that are being litigated across the country.
Incomplete or non-matching signatures on mail-in ballots caused 26.9% of the rejections. Signature matching or verification is highly criticized by pro-voting advocates for being “deeply flawed” or “error-prone.” Lawsuits across the country, like one in Florida, are seeking to undo signature requirements, arguing that they pose additional barriers to voters having their votes counted.
The third most common reason for rejection was that ballots were not received by the return deadline. Recently, Republicans in legislatures across the country have favored altering mail-in receipt deadlines, shortening the timeline for voters to return their mail-in ballots. Last week in North Carolina, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would shorten the return-window, from three days after the election to 7:30 p.m. EDT on Election Day.
Together, these top three reasons account for nearly 70% of the ballots rejected for the 2022 general election.