By comparison, election officials disqualified about 3% of absentee ballots in 2016 and 4% in 2018.
Rejection rates because of mismatched or missing signatures remained the same, at about 0.2% in each of the past three general elections. In future elections, election officials will verify absentee ballots based on driver’s license or state ID numbers instead of signatures, according to this year’s voting law.
There’s also another major reason that more absentee ballots were counted: Voters were better able to correct problems than in prior years. A state law passed in 2019 gave voters until three days after election day to prove their identities, and election officials were required to quickly contact voters when their ballots were rejected.
There were 2,777 voters who “cured” their absentee ballots that had been initially rejected, according to state election data. Those voters were required to submit identification and sign an affidavit before their ballots could be counted, leaving a final total of 7,604 rejections across Georgia.
The introduction of ballot drop boxes during the coronavirus pandemic partially explains why election officials discarded absentee ballots less often than in the past. Drop boxes were available until polls closed on Election Day, and ballots delivered afterward by the U.S. Postal Service were rejected.
About 0.3% of absentee ballots were returned late in November, about one-fifth the rate of ballots received after the state’s election day deadline in the 2018 election for governor.
Along with drop boxes, the number of late ballots also declined because voters anticipated mail delays and returned their ballots sooner, said Michael McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
“People got the message that the mail was running slow, and if they were contemplating casting a mail ballot close to the deadline, they were more likely to just vote in person,” McDonald said.
In addition, election officials in some counties stopped incorrectly categorizing unreturned absentee ballots as rejected, a practice that artificially inflated the number of late returns in prior years.
Georgia ballot rejections
Rejected ballots: 7,604 (0.6% of all returned)
Ballots returned after deadline: 4,117
Missing or mismatched signatures: 2,980
Ineligible voters: 376
ID required: 131
Source: Georgia secretary of state