ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots were rejected and went uncounted in Maryland's June primary, according to a summary of the state's first vote-by-mail election triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The tally of rejected ballots was 34,948, which amounted to 2.39% of the nearly 3.6 million mail-in votes that were cast.
The numbers, while considered low by state elections authorities, are an indication that voting by mail brings a higher risk of errors that can disqualify ballots, according to State Board of Elections deputy administrator Nikki Charlson.
The percentages were in-line with previous absentee voting figures and did not affect the outcome of any races, Charleson said.
She noted that in-person voting results in much lower error rates, while the vote-by-mail primary resulted in higher than normal participation rates.
"We do see a higher rate of rejecting ballots with absentee," Charleson said. "You're just not completing the process in the presence of trained election officials."
Leading reasons for the rejection of ballots during the June primary were a failure to get the ballot mailed in time and a failure to sign the ballot envelope to verify the voter's identity.
According to the SBE's election report:
- More than 87% of the rejects arrived late
- Nearly 9.5% of the rejects were because voters failed to sign the envelope
Other reasons for vote-by-mail rejections in Maryland have included everything from unsealed envelopes to a small number of unregistered voters submitting ballots.
There is an extremely low incidence of people voting more than once. During the June primary, the Board of Elections disqualified 181 ballots out of 3.5 million, or .00005% of votes cast for voting more than one ballot.
Charlson explained that in the past some voters have turned up at polls in-person even after casting an absentee ballot. She said the numbers do not indicate any widespread fraud.
Charleson noted vote-by-mail ballots have an envelope that is bar-coded with an individual voter ID tracking number to verify every voter. Voters must also sign the envelope to verify their identity, or the ballot will be rejected.
In Maryland, mail-in ballots for the November General Election must be requested. Requests can be made online, or by texting the letters VBM to 77788.
Additionally, ballot request applications will be mailed to every registered voter beginning Aug. 24.
Voters who want to vote-by-mail or by leaving a ballot in a drop box must fill out the application and return it before receiving a ballot.