During the 2020 election, the validity of mail-in ballots was all the rage, especially from former President Donald Trump. Mail-in ballots were going missing, a lot of voters in New York reported receiving faulty absentee ballots and it took forever for millions of mail-in ballots to be counted as we waited to see who would be the next U.S. President.
Now almost a year and a half later, it has been found in multiple states that the mail-in ballots of Black voters were rejected more often than white voters, according to the New York Times.
An audit in Washington state discovered that the votes of Black residents were rejected four times more often than white voters. The main reason was problematic signatures, which disqualified one out of every 40 mail-in votes from Black residents. Overall, 29,000 ballots were rejected for signature problems.
According to Washington state officials, there is no evidence that the ballots cast by minority voters were singled out by poll workers or purposefully falsified. Many of the mail-in ballots were missing signatures or they did not match the one on file, which could be a result of voter inexperience. But no signs of racial bias were found and nothing to explain the racial disparity in rejections.
The Washington state auditor, Pat McCarthy, thinks the disparity is “unacceptable” and has urged election officials to take actionable steps to address the racial disparities in ballot rejection.
From the New York Times:
The findings in Washington State mirror mail-ballot research that has been conducted in other states in recent years, including Georgia and Florida. But they are crucial in a state like Washington, which in 2011 became the second state to adopt all-mail balloting, behind Oregon. Mail-in voting has been an option for all statewide elections since 1991.
Turnout in states with all-mail balloting has been among the nation’s highest and is often seen as a key to attracting voters who may not otherwise cast ballots because of the challenges of work, child care or transportation. It has become an increasingly popular option during the pandemic, with 43 percent of voters around the country casting their ballot by mail during the 2020 general election.
The co-founder of Black Voters Matter, LaTosha Brown says sending votes by mail can expand access to voting, specifically to Black people who have historically faced legal and racial blocks to voting, according to the New York Times.
“That shouldn’t be concerning just for me as a Black American,” she said, according to the Times, “That should be concerning for anyone who cares about democracy.”
More from the New York Times:
The disparities found in other states with rejected ballots mirrored those found in Washington. Researchers examining mail-in votes from the 2018 election in Georgia found that racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to have their on-time ballot rejected compared with white voters. Similar disparities were found during the 2018 election in Florida by researchers working with the American Civil Liberties Union, a review that also found disparities for younger voters, first-time voters and military personnel. Journalists have found similar trends in North Carolina and Colorado — and previously in Washington State.