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California tosses more than 100,000 mail-in ballots from March presidential primary over mistakes

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Problems with mail-in balloting continue to occur around the country as more jurisdictions use them amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as evidenced in California.

More than 102,000 mail-in ballots from the state’s March presidential primary were rejected due to various “mistakes” out of more than 7 million cast, leaving new doubts in the minds of many whether widespread voting by mail around the country on Election Day in November will be fraught with similar problems.

In all, California elections officials tossed 102,428, according to data unearthed by The Associated Press, “marking the highest number of disqualified ballots in the state for a primary since 2014 and highest for any statewide election since 2010,” the Daily Caller reported.

The AP noted further:

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, California is part of a growing number of states increasing mail-in balloting to avoid crowds at polling places. President Donald Trump is among those questioning the integrity of vote-by-mail elections while supporters say they are just as reliable as polling places and offer greater flexibility for voters.

But while polling places include workers who can assist people who have questions about filling out ballots, a voter doesn’t have support at home and so problems can arise.

In all, 1.7 percent of ballots had to be tossed, and while may seem small to some people, in a state run by Democrats who have often claimed ‘every vote should count,’ the rate is remarkably high.

What’s more, the failure rate is increasing. The AP noted that just two years ago, the national average of rejected ballots in the general election was 1.4 percent, while in 2016, the past presidential election year, the rate was just 1 percent.

The most common reason ballots were tossed in California was because they were received late. Ballots are to be postmarked by Election Day and cannot arrive more than three days later.

In all, statewide, 70,330 missed the deadline.

“The only thing worse than people not voting is people attempting to vote and having their ballot uncounted,” Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, told the AP, adding that the rising number of nullified votes “can make a difference in a close contest.”

President Trump lost the popular vote in California to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 4.3 million votes in 2016, which gave her the win in that category. And it’s not likely that the president will win California this time around, either, regardless of who the eventual Democratic nominee is (Joe Biden is on pace to grab the nod).

However, as the AP notes, there could be several close U.S. congressional races in the state, and a high number of nullified ballots could make the difference in some of them.

“Local races sometimes are decided by a handful of votes,” the newswire noted.

In the past, California only offered mail-in ballots to residents who requested them, a practice that has grown over time. But in June, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law mandating 100-percent mail-in balloting for the November elections in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The law, which is being challenged in court, requires county election officials to mail ballots to everyone on voter registration lists, which critics say is problematic in and of itself because they are notoriously outdated.

In January 2019, legal watchdog group Judicial Watch won a lawsuit forcing Los Angeles County to remove 1.5 million inactive voters from its registration list. In addition, the suit required the state to bring its voter registration rules back into federal compliance.

The number of disqualified ballots in California’s March primary is just the latest in a series of mail-ballot snafus, nullifications, and illegal activities.

And last month, ProPublica published an essay documenting a series of mail-in balloting problems and snafus that were caused by the U.S. Postal Service, which has been suffering years of budget cuts, personnel declines, and closure of mail-handling facilities — all of which come as more Democrats push for November’s vote to be all mail-in due to COVID-19.

Jon Dougherty

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