A new report from Public Interest Legal Foundation examining the results of California’s first year of mass-mail balloting reveals some interesting and sobering statistics pertaining to the 2022 general election and, as PILF President J. Christian Adams says, “California’s vote-by-mail demonstration should serve as a warning to state legislators elsewhere.”
RedState reported in November that more than 2 million mail ballots arrived at county election offices between November 12 and 15, the last day officials could accept ballots postmarked no later than Election Day (November 8). With 11,146,610 total ballots cast in the general election, 2 million is a significant number. Incredibly, 57,000 more ballots arrived at county election offices after November 15 and were not counted, and an additional 10,891,525 ballots mailed are unaccounted for. What does that mean? From PILF’s report:
It is fair to assume that the bulk of these were ignored or ultimately thrown out by the intended recipients. But, under mass mail elections, we can only assume what happened. Mail voting practices have an insurmountable information gap. The public cannot know how many ballots were disregarded, delivered to wrong mailboxes, or even withheld from the proper recipient by someone at the same address.
“Unaccounted for” would also include ballots that were completed by the voter and placed in a mailbox or ballot drop box, but were never received by elections officials. That’s what happened to Assembly candidate Lori Mills’ son, who was home on a 10-day leave from the Marine Corps when he completed his ballot and put it in the mailbox in front of the family home. Mills tells RedState:
My son was excited to fill out his ballot and vote for his mom. On October 18 he put his completed ballot in the mailbox, and by Election Day it still wasn’t received. I spoke to Ventura County Clerk-Recorder Mark Lunn face-to-face about it, and he advised me to contact the post office. So I went to the post office and was told, “All of our ballots are gone.” That’s it. Basically, “Oops, so sorry.”
While voters can track their ballot online to ensure that it’s received, and can go vote in person on Election Day if they aren’t assured that their ballot has been received by the county, that fix wasn’t available for Mills’ son, who was back on base by Election Day. What happened to this Marine’s ballot is a prime example of why many people don’t trust the USPS with their ballots, but also highlights the potential for rampant disenfranchisement inherent in a mass-mail ballot election.
In addition, assuming that people who put their ballots in the mail on Election Day did so from a location relatively close to their home, how can it possibly take more than seven days for the USPS to get those ballots to the county election office?
PILF also reported that over 120,000 mail ballots were rejected by election officials in the 2022 general election. As mentioned above, 57,000 were rejected because they were received after the deadline. Ultimately, almost 48,000 were rejected due to signature mismatch, though voters were given the opportunity to cure the deficiency if that’s why their ballot was going to be rejected. Nearly 12,000 ballots were returned with no signature on the envelope and were rejected, and 813 were found to have voted twice.
While reviewing the total ballots mailed and cast, another number stood out. In a California Secretary of State report listing the Challenged/Rejected Vote by Mail ballot results by code, the Secretary of State reports that 22,184,707 ballots were mailed for the 2022 general election. However, both the official Statement of Vote and the 15-day report of registration (which calculates the total number of registered voters 15 days before the election) state that there were 21,940,274 registered voters as of October 24, 2022. Ballots were mailed approximately two weeks before that, so it looks like 244,000 voters were taken off the rolls between the time ballots were mailed and October 24. Just glancing at the report, the counties with the biggest variations were Los Angeles (77,000), San Bernardino (22,000), Orange (20,000), Alameda (10,000), San Francisco (9,000), Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, and San Diego (8,000 each), Fresno, and Ventura (5,000 each).
It’s going to be an uphill battle, but reports like this are helpful in efforts to do away with the cancer of mass-mail ballot elections.