Election Officials Don’t Know What Happened to 15 Million Mail Ballots in 2020 Election

Real data -- from a federal agency.

As any casual observer could tell, the 2020 election was a mess. Now we have real data—from a federal agency, no less—that proves it.

Based on data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an analysis by the Public Interest Legal Foundation shows almost 15 million mail ballots effectively disappeared after election officials gave them to the U.S. Postal Service to deliver to voters.  

Gone, like the Bermuda Triangle of the election.

Some of the mail ballots may have ended up on the floors of apartment complexes. Some were sent to deceased registrants. Some went to addresses where the registrant no longer lives. Some may have gone to vacant lots and businesses. Some, having never been requested by the voter, were never returned.

In 2020, we put the election in the hands of the people who regularly deliver you your neighbor’s mail.

The data also shows that an additional 1.1 million ballots were sent to the wrong addresses in 2020 – the U.S. Postal Service saying they were “undeliverable.” Think on that. One million ballots went to the wrong house or apartment.

This report proves that mass voting by mail leads to chaos, is ripe with opportunities to commit fraud, and disenfranchises voters.

What was the effect on the election outcome?  That depends on other unknowns.  What we do know is that massive numbers of lost ballots present enormous potential for abuse.  The fact of untracked, nearly 15 million ballots triggers an unavoidable cascade of serious, fundamental, deeply troubling questions. 

Such as, how many of those were voted by unintended recipients?  This can’t be known.  Another obvious question is, how many people failed to vote because their ballots went astray?  This too can’t be known.  Another question is why are the voter rolls so inaccurate that wrong addresses are so common? 

Places like Pennsylvania had to be sued to be forced into correcting them.  Another question is why do so many election officials not care?  

To put that 15 million figure in perspective, consider this in Pennsylvania 440,000 mail ballots went missing or were undeliverable in the 2020 election. President Biden won the state by only 81,000 votes.

Pennsylvania is not the only battleground state that lost more ballots than the difference between winning and losing its Electoral College votes.

In Wisconsin, 83,000 mail ballots went missing or were undeliverable. President Biden won the state by only 20,000 votes.

 In Georgia, 244,000 ballots went missing or were undeliverable. President Biden won the state by only 11,000 votes.

When states lose track of more ballots than the difference between winning and losing its Electoral College votes, that is a core system failure.  It means that a genuine accurate count is impossible. We just close our eyes and cross our fingers and hope the margins are big enough to not call into question the outcome of an election.

Mass mail balloting with inaccurate voter rolls leads to chaos. That is exactly what we saw in 2020.   

Many states have significant issues in their voter rolls including duplicate and deceased registrants. The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s 2020 analysis of voter rolls in 42 states found nearly 38,000 people registered twice and nearly 350,000 deceased voters who were still registered.  

Mail balloting also disenfranchises people. The left harps on disenfranchisement, but wholly ignores the role of mail balloting in disenfranchising voters. 

The new PILF report also shows an alarming number of mail ballot rejections. Sometimes the error is the lack of a signature or other mistakes made by legitimate voters; other times it is something less innocent. Regardless, in 2020, over 560,000 mail ballots were rejected, many, no doubt, cast by legitimate voters who were effectively disenfranchised. In California alone, nearly 93,000 mail ballots were rejected in 2020.

When people vote in person, they are less likely to be disenfranchised. Election officials can help catch mistakes at the ballot box such as a forgotten signature on a ballot.

Mass voting by mail is not the way to run an election. Voting in person is supervised and transparent. It stops disenfranchisement of legitimate voters and increases confidence that voting matters and elections are honest and accurate.

It is critical that we work to clean the voter rolls before the next election, implement much-needed reforms to fix existing vulnerabilities, and do not let mass mail balloting become the new norm for our elections.

J. Christian Adams is the president and general counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department Voting Section lawyer.  He is also a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.


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