What happens to mail-in ballots after drop off

Joanna Estrada
October 28, 2020

Data from Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, plus Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri, show roughly three times more people have requested mail-in ballots compared to the last presidential election in 2016. "In North Carolina, ballots mailed by Election Day and received up to three days later are counted". That's one of the most generous buffers of any state.

Despite the expected surge in mail-in ballot volume, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where the ballot counting process, including pre-canvassing (sorting, verification and other processes that precede actually counting the vote) can not begin before Election Day.

Today is also the last day that voters can register to have a ballot sent to them by mail.

The key issue here is when election clerks can open mail ballot envelopes and process them, either to count them or to prepare them for counting. All but a handful of states in the country allow clerks to do this well ahead of Election Day. "Further, George W. Bush's 2000 election legal team - which included [newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney] Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts - argued during that contested election that ballots arriving late and without postmarks, which were thought to benefit Bush, must be counted in Florida".

Berger's press release did not dive into the minutiae of the law professor's argument, but did stake alleged fears of post-Election Day chaos on an argument that Pildes decidedly did not make-essentially weaponizing the original mischaracterization in a way, critics pointed out, that feeds into an already extant cycle of fears regarding mail-in voting that have been promoted relentlessly by the Republican Party this election season.

"If you show up on Election Day and your voter record indicates you have applied for a mail-in ballot but you do not have the entire ballot package with you, you will have to vote by a Provisional Ballot, which can not be counted before further investigation by the Elections Division", Wagner and Hallam said. This is another potential reason for delay, but a far smaller one than the issue of pre-canvassing.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against a Madison-based federal judge who wanted to allow local election managers to count ballots that came-in as late as six days after Election Day.

Mail-in voting has surged this year as Americans seek to avoid crowds at polling places, even as Trump repeatedly claimed without evidence that it leads to voter fraud.

The National Council on Election Integrity, a bipartisan group of over 40 government and civic leaders, said that "our constitution and our state election laws require us to count every vote, including legally cast absentee votes".

But in about 30 states, the deadline for receipt is November 3.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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