Tens of thousands of Pa. mail-in ballots could be rejected, here’s why

PITTSBURGH — Tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania could be rejected and potentially have a major effect on the presidential race.

More than 26,000 ballots were rejected during the June primary out of nearly 1.5 million votes.

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About 2.9 million absentee ballot applications have already been approved statewide, and Pennsylvania’s Department of State expects that number to surpass three million.

Experts fear even more ballots could be rejected in November since the Pa. Supreme Court ruled ballots that aren’t returned in the secrecy envelope, known as naked ballots, cannot be counted.

“Given how tight these races are expected to be in Pennsylvania, it could move the needle one way or the other,” said Chris Deluzio, the Policy Director for the Institute of Cyber Law, Policy, and Security at the University of Pittsburgh.

Here are some of the reasons why mail-in ballots could be rejected, according to election officials:

  • Missing signature on outer envelope
  • Secrecy ballot not included (naked ballot)
  • Incorrect date listed
  • Ballot isn’t returned or postmarked by Election Day

On Friday, the state supreme court ruled that discrepancy in voter signatures is not a valid reason to throw out a mail-in ballot.

“I think we would be smart to pay attention to what reforms we can make now, and in the future, to avoid seeing eligible voters have their votes cast aside for frankly administrative issues," said Deluzio.

Pa.'s department of state and outside groups are investing heavily in advertising to make sure voters return their ballots properly and promptly, hoping to prevent tens of thousands from being disqualified.

So far, there have been no reports of local voters receiving threatening calls or emails from outside groups, an effort seen recently in other states that is now being tied to interference efforts by Iran.

Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar also addressed more than 4,000 duplicate ballots sent out statewide, something she described as an IT issue that has been fixed.

However, she added systems are in place to make sure no one’s vote will count twice.

“All duplicate ballots are coded for that same voter. So, if you get two, they’re both coded to you. Our system has a hard stop that prevents a second ballot from being counted," she said.