More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected in this year's primaries across 23 states, according to a Sunday report by The Washington Post. That was a 67% increase over the 319,000 mail and absentee ballots that were thrown out nationwide in the 2016 general election.
A similar analysis by NPR tracked 558,032 ballots that were rejected in 30 states — including nearly 12,000 in Georgia. Tennessee was not listed in NPR's roundup — probably because the Tennessee Secretary of State's website has not posted rejections. The Post didn't list a state-by-state breakdown.
"Nearly a quarter were in key battlegrounds for the fall," The Post wrote, "illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election."
The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the presidential contest is decided by a close margin, as it was in 2016 when Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by roughly 80,000 votes. This year, according to the tally by The Post, election officials in those three states tossed out more than 60,480 ballots just during primaries, which saw lower voter turnout than what is expected in November.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, told the Post that the number of rejected ballots in her state could double in November compared with this month's primary, when 10,694 votes were disqualified, with higher rates of rejection in Black, brown and Asian American communities. For context, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016.
Clearly the stakes are high and getting higher as the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted 20 states to expand or ease access to voting absentee or by mail.
And, of course, there is no shortage of Trump administration assaults on mail balloting.
In addition to efforts aimed at would-be balloters themselves, Trump and his new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, have dismantled critically important mail operations that would get approved ballots to voters and back again in time for counting. Under DeJoy, the Postal Service unbolted and removed mail-sorting machines, banned postal worker overtime, picked up 700 of the familiar blue street-side mail boxes, reduced hours at some post offices (then restored those hours locally when faced with outrage from business officials) and eliminated some postal trips to delay the delivery of mail-in ballots beyond election deadlines.
DeJoy, testifying for two days before Congress, has denied his actions were political. Instead the Trump mega-donor who has zero postal service background claims he is trying to make the United States Postal Service profitable or at least break even.
Don't be tricked into thinking that sounds good. The Postal Service is a service — not a business. Congress and the Supreme Court and the U.S. military services are not businesses, either. We don't expect them to turn a profit or break even. They are here ostensibly to serve us. And service is not free. The Postal Service — like government, roadways, the military and the court system — provides infrastructure and it should be treated as such.
On Monday, DeJoy testified that he has warned allies of President Trump that the president's repeated attacks on mail-in ballots are "not helpful."
Don't make us laugh out loud. DeJoy, like other Trump supporters, makes the mistake of assuming Donald Trump thinks about helping anyone other than himself. But we digress.
DeJoy also told lawmakers: "I am not engaged in sabotaging the election." Yet he continued to refuse requests by Democrats to restore mail-sorting machines or mailboxes, despite legitimate complaints that the changes are causing lasting damage and widespread mail delays.
The House, recalled from August vacation and meeting in a rare Saturday session, approved legislation that would reverse the recent changes in USPS operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election. The measure passed with 26 House Republicans breaking with Trump and GOP leaders by not voting. (Tennessee's Republican members of the House, including Chuck Fleischmann, all voted against it.)
DeJoy — the same post master who says he's making the delivery of ballots this fall his top priority — said he didn't want the $25 billion, despite that figure having been requested by the Postal Service Board of Governors.
Naturally, the White House issued a veto threat, saying the House bill "seeks to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for placing counterproductive restrictions on USPS's already limited operational flexibilities." This is the same White House where Trump tweeted that ballot drop boxes aren't good because they are not "COVID sanitized."
Just who are Donald Trump and his flunkies trying to fool?