ST. LOUIS — Ballot errors noticed during the in-person voting process can usually be fixed on the spot. But voting by mail, when a voter and election judge may never actually interact, could mean errors may jeopardize a vote.
Though thousands of ballots can be rejected every presidential election, this year that number is expected to be much higher as more people vote by mail.
If ballots are rejected at the same rate as during this year's primaries, up to three times as many voters in November could be disenfranchised in key battleground states when compared to the last presidential election, according to an Associated Press analysis of rejected ballots.
Here is a checklist to ensure a mail-in ballot is counted properly.
Get it in on time. One of the main reasons ballots cannot be counted is that they arrive too late.
In Missouri, send it back no later than the last week of October so it arrives by Election Day, Nov. 3.
In Illinois, the ballot has to be postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 17. Make sure to sign the return envelope.
Lack of signature is another major reason ballots are rejected.
Make sure to use the signature you would for any other legal document, like your registration. When election judges compare the ballot to your records, you don't want them to question if you are really the one who sent it in. Get it notarized if necessary.
In Missouri, with a few exceptions, this signature will likely need to happen in front of a notary. Unless you're voting by mail due to one of these excuses, your ballot needs to be notarized or it's invalid:
- COVID-19 diagnosis
- At-risk category for COVID-19
- Confined due to illness or disability
- Caretaker of someone confined due to illness or disability
What about using a colored pen? Or getting a smudge on the page that that makes it difficult for the scanner to read it? St. Louis County's Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey said voters should try to avoid those errors, but ballots will still be processed.
“It is more labor-intensive for us," Fey said. "It makes it a little more time consuming, but your ballot is still going to count.”
Illinois election authorities are required to call and let voters know within two days of their ballot getting rejected, but Missouri doesn't have that kind of law. So the best course of action? When you get your ballot, take your time to fill it out carefully. And then send it back as quickly as possible.