“Courts are now very sensitive to the reasons for the disqualification of postal votes,” said Dr Persily. “When dealing with very few of them, those reasons might not seem significant. But now that cavalier application of the rules has led to the disqualification of tens of thousands of ballots, they are more likely to provide strict and consistent enforcement of those guidelines.
Indeed, many election officials go the extra mile to welcome voters. In Davidson County of Nashville, election workers used pink highlighters to underline the often overlooked signature lines on the approximately 37,000 absence ballots they mailed to voters. As of last week, officials had reported just 11 ballots that lacked proper signatures, said Jeff Roberts, the county electoral officer.
While the rate of disqualified ballots has unmistakably declined in some jurisdictions, one of the leading experts in postal voting, Daniel A. Smith of the University of Florida, offers a completely different explanation.
In Florida, where 1.3% of postal ballots were rejected in 2018, the reject rate on Monday was just 0.3%. But “it‘s not that we have fewer rejected ballots,” Smith said. “It is because we have a higher rate of ballots processed” – that is, corrected and made eligible for the count.
This is especially true in battlefield states like Florida and Georgia. In both states, armies of workers from political parties, candidates and advocacy groups are throwing voters whose ballots have been rejected by phone calls and emails urging them to correct their mistakes. In Florida, where some 32,000 ballots were rejected in 2018, only 14,072 were rejected as of Monday, two-thirds of which were due to lack of signatures.
“In every county we are putting in a massive effort on the ground” to correct voting errors, Smith said. “And we have never seen anything like it in the previous election.”