More Evidence of High Rejection of Black and Latino Mail-in Ballots

Washington State recently conducted a review of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. The state auditor's office found that some counties were more likely to reject the mail-in ballots of Black people, Latinos and younger voters compared to other demographics. A far larger number of people used mail-in ballots given COVID conditions.

The audit determined that mail-in ballots belonging to Black voters were thrown out four times as often as those of white voters. Such rejections disqualified one out of every 40 mail-in votes from Black people. The cause for every rejection was a problematic signature. Rejection rates were higher for Indigenous peoples, Latinos, and Asian and Pacific Islander voters, as well. (A signature is required whenever an individual registers and is then included as part of the voter rolls to verify identity.)

The audit also determined that "where a person lives was the most significant factor to whether their election ballot was rejected." Mail-in ballots submitted to certain counties were four to seven times more likely to face rejection than those submitted to others. Election officials are well aware of the segregated nature of U.S. cities and which zip codes have larger numbers of Black people or Puerto Ricans, or Mexican Americans and so forth.

According to Washington State election officials, the rejection rates were not "intentional." One wonders then how it happens that those who have long been targeted for voter repression are the ones most impacted.

Officials said the signatures were either missing or were said to "not match" the one on file. In either case there are immediate remedies, such as providing a temporary or provisional ballot until the voter can be contacted. Such ballots are kept separate and counted on verification. In some cases, they are only counted in close elections, also after verification.

According to officials, the problem with rejected signatures could be the result of "voter inexperience, language problems or other factors." They can also be the result of officials manipulating the rolls or not keeping proper records of the voter and their signature.

The signatures, and arbitrary ability to reject them, along with the many other requirements for registering and voting, are yet more means to keep people from voting or to keep their votes from being counted. It is also the case that while counties have the main responsibility, the Secretary of State of each state has the power to arbitrarily eliminate names from the rolls, as has been done repeatedly in states such as Florida, Ohio and elsewhere. The false claim is made by officials that the person is dead, or a felon, or has moved, etc., always targeting Black and Latino voters, and the person does not even know until they attempt to vote.

Many are calling for the need for a signature to be eliminated, as a record already exists of whether a person is registered and whether they have voted in a given election. Indeed, the demand is for an independent election commission to be established to take responsibility for providing and maintaining a list of all eligible voters, eliminating registration and the completely unequal situation that exists now with each state determining the rules and state officials readily able to manipulate the rolls on a racist basis.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 3 - March 6, 2022

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