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The Count #14: How To Make Sure Your Ballot Counts

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • After voting, what else Americans can do to promote democracy.
  • Ballot “curing” and how to make sure your ballot counts.

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THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 6 days until election day.
  • 41 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 47 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 70 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 84 days until inauguration day.

DO MORE THAN JUST VOTE

More than 66 million people have already cast early ballots, nearly 50% of votes cast in 2016. Almost half of all these ballots have also been cast in the 13 battleground states that will decide the winner of the Electoral College.

Democrats seem to be leading the lines to the ballot box. Of the states that report this information, Democrats have made up 48% of early voters to Republicans’ 28%.

Democrats are trying to harness this passion to combat voter suppression by encouraging Americans to get involved in politics, aside from just voting.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, told The Count how important it is to be prepared to learn about “how people put themselves on the line” with non-violent civil disobedience, learning from protesters in other countries like Sudan.

“The road to fascism is littered with moments when people did not stand up or speak out and we cannot allow that to happen in the United States of America … If we want to keep our democracy, we’re going to have to fight for it.”


HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR BALLOT COUNTS

Two-thirds of early voting across the country has been completed using mail-in ballots. That’s 44 million votes. And these ballots are verified differently than those cast in-person: Once received, election officials will verify the voter’s personal details such as name, address, and signature, and some states have extra steps such as requiring the signature of a witness or notary public.

The two biggest reasons some mail-in ballots were not counted in 2018 was because they arrived late, or signatures were missing or didn’t seem to match records. This disproportionately affected groups that are more likely to vote for Biden this year: young voters and Black and Hispanic voters.

This will be an even bigger challenge this year because of the millions of people voting by mail for the first time, increasing the chance of widespread rejections. During this year’s primaries, more than half a million mail-in ballots were rejected and officials in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin rejected more than 60,000 ballots.

Estimates of mail-in ballot rejections this year suggest more than 1 million ballots could be tossed out. And because Democrats have returned more than twice as many mail-in ballots than Republicans, rejections could seriously hurt the Biden campaign in key states. Already, 15,574 Florida ballots have errors that need to be fixed, with twice as many of these belonging to Democrats than Republicans.

Ballot “curing” is crucial to keep ballots from being permanently rejected:

  • CURE ALL — “Curing” is the process that occurs when a voter fixes issues with their ballots, such as a blank signature or verifying personal details. This usually involves providing an affidavit with their information and ID to their election office.
  • CALL ME MAYBE — Some states will reject ballots outright, but 18 states always require election officials to notify voters if there’s an error with their ballot and give them a chance to cure it, and eight more states have introduced the policy for this year only.

As The Count’s co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza said, in states without a curing process “if voters make a mistake, they might not find out that their ballot didn’t count until after the election, if ever, which is why it’s so important to do it really, really carefully the first time.”

Like every aspect of the 2020 election, curing has been targeted in several lawsuits. In Texas, a federal appeals court reinstated the process of rejecting ballots outright while a federal judge ruled North Carolina can allow voters to correct small errors with an affidavit.

Here’s how this could all play out in a few key states:

  • FLORIDA — County supervisors of elections will notify voters whose ballots had errors. These voters, due to a lawsuit, have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 to submit their affidavit and copy of their ID to the supervisors of elections’ office.
  • PENNSYLVANIA — There’s no standardized rule, and whether voters are notified is up to each county. But after a state Supreme Court ruling, mismatching signatures can no longer be a reason to reject ballots.
  • WISCONSIN — There is no notify and cure process, so election officials can reject problematic ballots outright. Local clerks are encouraged to reach out to voters, but because of the unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots, voters may want to track their ballot, contact their clerk directly, or go into the clerk’s office if they want to cure their ballot.

You can use this directory to track your ballot. If you’re yet to submit a mail-in ballot, The Count hosts talk through the whole process from choosing the right pen to dropping it off in a ballot box:


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • While campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump made repeated false claims about voting in that state.
  • A Pennsylvania county has asked Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from the state’s mail-in ballot extension case set to be decided by the Supreme Court.
  • Mail-in ballots should be sent by yesterday, according to USPS. Meanwhile Pennsylvania’s governor advised his voters to return ballots by hand to drop off sites.
  • The pandemic has highlighted the unequal access to secure and private ballots in many states for voters with visual impairments.
  • Counties that verify signatures with AI software could threaten to disenfranchise voters via opaque algorithms.
  • Voting from Native American reservations can also be incredibly difficult.
  • How long will voting take in your state? This New York Times article lays it all out.

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