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Few Michigan absentee ballots rejected amid record voter turnout in 2020 election

More than 5 million votes cast in Michigan in presidential election, over half of them absentee

In this Oct. 29, 2020, photo, voters line up as the doors open to the Election Center for absentee early voting for the general election in Sterling Heights, Mich. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
In this Oct. 29, 2020, photo, voters line up as the doors open to the Election Center for absentee early voting for the general election in Sterling Heights, Mich. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (Copyright 2020 Associated Press)

Michigan absentee ballots cast in the November election more than doubled compared to the state’s primary in August, but ballot rejection rates did not increase nearly as much.

In fact, some issues resulting in the rejection of Michigan absent voter ballots actually decreased between August and November.

According to the office of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, of the 3.3 million absentee ballots cast in the presidential election this November, 15,300 of those ballots were rejected -- which is less than .5 percent. Most rejected ballots were not accepted due to arriving too late, voters moving to a different Michigan jurisdiction after their vote was cast or voters casting ballots while alive but dying before Election Day.

See the full list of reasons for rejected Michigan ballots in the table below.

In the August primary election, about 10,600 of 1.6 million absentee ballots (less than 1 percent) were rejected in Michigan. More than 80 percent of those ballots were rejected due to signature verification issues or late arrival.

Officials said Wednesday that the rate of rejection for signature issues fell between August and November from 0.14 percent to 0.1 percent. Officials also said that the number of Michigan absentee ballots that arrived too late after Election Day to be counted dropped from 6,400 in August to 3,300 in November.

“I am extremely proud of the 1,600 clerks across the state who embraced the record setting turnout including more than double the number of absentee ballots ever cast in a Michigan election and vigilantly ensured that all valid ballots were counted,” Benson said. “It is also gratifying that our voter education efforts, alongside those of countless other nonpartisan organizations, in addition to the installation of secure ballot drop boxes across the state, combined to dramatically reduce the rate of voter disenfranchisement due to late submission and signature errors.”

The state of Michigan recorded its highest voter turnout -- especially among absentee voters -- in history in the 2020 General Election.

Of the more than seven million registered voters in Michigan, officials say over five million residents voted this November. The state’s previous record was 2.5 million votes cast in the Aug. 2020 primary election, which also beat a record of 2.2 million votes cast in the Aug. 2018 primary.

The 3.3 million Michigan absent voter ballots cast this November beat the state’s previous record of 1.6 million votes cast in the Aug. 2020 primary election. Before then, the highest number of absent voter ballots cast in Michigan was 1.3 million in the 2016 presidential election.

As the coronavirus pandemic converged on a significant election year in the U.S., a large portion of Michigan voters took advantage of their ability to vote absentee as a safer alternative in the May, August and November elections.

In 2018 a proposal known as the Voting Policies in State Constitution Initiative was approved and added no-excuse absentee voting to the Michigan Constitution, allowing all Michigan voters to request absentee ballots for elections without requiring an excuse.

Some government officials and political candidates also encouraged American voters to vote absentee or early in person in an effort to ensure their votes were counted in the election, while avoiding large crowds and long lines on Election Day amid the pandemic.

A national push for and a huge influx in absentee voting has led to countless myths, theories and other misleading opinions on the vote-by-system throughout the year.

Some figures and candidates, like President Donald Trump and his administration, have claimed that the vote-by-mail system is fraudulent and have pushed this rhetoric as part an effort to overturn the results of the election -- which declared Democratic candidate Joe Biden as president-elect on Nov. 7. These claims have been consistently debunked, and no evidence has been found of widespread voter fraud even with an increase in absentee voting.

In fact, several government officials have found that Trump’s insistent claims of fraud are baseless. Most recently, Attorney General William Barr declared that the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered zero evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Read: Fact-checking 5 claims about mail-in voting

Read: Trump’s legal team cried vote fraud, but courts found none

Across the nation, roughly 160 million Americans voted in the General Election this November -- which is up from the record 137.5 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.


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