As Michigan saw record-breaking turnout and widespread use of absentee voting this November, the portion of rejected ballots declined compared to the August primary. In total, 15,302 absentee ballots were rejected for failing to meet legal qualifications.
That’s just 0.46% of the 3.3 million absentee ballots cast in Michigan, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. In the primary, 10,600 (0.67%) of 1.6 million absentee ballots were rejected.
Benson praised statewide “voter education efforts” for “dramatically (reducing) the rate of voter disenfranchisement due to late submission and signature errors.”
Here were the most common reasons for rejection in November’s election, statewide:
- Voter moved after casting their ballot, 4,090 ballots rejected, 26%
- Voter passed away after casting their ballot, 3,469 ballots rejected, 22% (In this scenario, Michigan law bars the vote from being counted.)
- Ballot was received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, 3,328 ballots rejected, 21%
- Ballot envelope was not signed, 1,852 ballots rejected, 12%
- Signature on ballot did not match signature on file, 1,400 ballots rejected, 9%
Notably, easily-avoidable mistakes like late-arriving ballots and missing signatures did not top the list. These were the two most common reasons that absentee ballots were rejected in August’s primary. The rate of rejection for signature issues fell from 0.14% in August to 0.1% in November. The number of ballots that were rejected for arriving after 8 p.m. on Election Day fell from 6,400 in August to 3,300 in November.
In Detroit, 1,432 ballots were rejected — the largest amount of any jurisdiction in the state. About 178,000 absentee ballots were reportedly returned in the city. The 1,432 rejected ballots is very close to the 1,359 ballots that were rejected in Detroit’s primary election, when overall turnout was more than 50% lower.
The largest portion of Detroit’s rejections had no signature on the envelope. Here are the most common reasons for rejection in Detroit’s November election:
- Ballot envelope was not signed, 625 ballots rejected, 43%
- Voter moved after casting their ballot, 336 ballots rejected, 23%
- Ballot was received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, 251 ballots rejected, 17%
- Voter passed away after casting their ballot, 150 ballots rejected, 10%
- Signature on ballot did not match signature on file, 54 ballots rejected, 3%
In Detroit’s primary election, 820 ballots were rejected for arriving late. In the general election, that fell to 251. The city’s drastic improvement in this area mirrors improvements seen in the state as a whole. But other issues persisted in Detroit, even as they improved statewide: most notably, there were 409 absentee ballots rejected for missing signatures in Detroit’s primary, but 625 in the general election.
In a hearing before the Senate Oversight Committee on Wednesday evening, Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer of President Trump, falsely accused Michigan (and Detroit in particular) of mishandling absentee ballots, which he incorrectly claimed were the most “dangerous” and fraud-prone type of ballots. Election officials say this isn’t true. They have repeatedly emphasized that voting by absentee ballot is safe and secure and that there is no evidence of fraud in Michigan or nationwide.
Benson lauded the hard work by clerks and election workers amid Michigan’s highest-ever turnout.
“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,” she said in the press release.