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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Black And Latino Mail-In Ballots Disproportionately Flagged For Alleged Errors

A large number of Black and Latino votes are at risk of being nullified during the 2020 election as electoral workers reject ballots that were allegedly submitted with errors. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Black and Latino votes make up a large portion of the flagged ballots from the 60 million mail-in ballots submitted. Some of the votes have been flagged for missing signatures, while others are being questioned for using signatures that don't match their voter registration forms or driver’s license. 

About 21,000 mail-in ballots in battleground states are facing the possibility of rejection due to these perceived errors, The New York Times reported. Election officials, however, in six of the eight swing states are still required to notify the voters about the errors and give them a chance to fix the mistakes, a process known as curing. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are two of the states where voters don't get a second chance. 

In North Carolina and Georgia, Black and Latino voters are three times as likely to have their ballots rejected, compared to white voters, according to the U.S. Elections Project. In Florida, Black voters are having their ballots rejected at twice the rate of white people, The New York Times reported.

A similar pattern has been seen in past years. In the 2018 Florida general election, for example, Black, Latino and other non-white voters had their ballots discarded at a rate more than twice of white people.

Dr. Daniel Smith, the author of a 2018 report for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), identified patterns of minority votes facing a higher number of rejections in the 2012 and 2016 Florida presidential elections.

“Younger and racial and ethnic minority voters were much more likely to have their vote-by-mail ballots rejected and less likely to have their vote-by-mail ballots cured when they are flagged for a signature problem,” he wrote in the report, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 

Advocates for social justice believe the disparity in flagging is a clear indication of suppressing minority votes.

“That’s not a coincidence,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told the Sun-Sentinel. “When there is a clear pattern, you should take it as a pattern.”

Phillip Jerez, of the Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access, said some voters may not be able to correct their mistake if they're given a second chance.

“The average voter, even if you give election officials your phone number and your email, you might miss it," he said. "I might not pick up that phone call, I might miss the email for some reason."

Sahil Mehrotra, the spokesperson for America Votes, said racial disparity is also a problem when it comes to giving voters a second chance.

“Our partners are contacting voters who might have an issue with their ballot every day to let them know how to fix it, in an effort to make sure every vote counts,” Mehrotra said.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the cure rate of ballots in the Florida counties of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade is 43.7% for Black voters and 48.4% for Hispanic voters. That's compared to 65.67% for white voters.

Human error has been a concern in some regions of the country as the ballot screening process is left in the hands of inexperienced people who are required to verify the signatures with their eyes and make decisions in less than five seconds. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, dozens of ballots were rejected in the 2016 presidential election due to mismatched signatures. 

In the current election, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are seeing rejection rates that have been far higher than the national average. In Miami-Dade County, the biggest county in Florida, about 2,600 ballots have been flagged for missing signatures, mismatched signatures and other errors. More than 2,500 ballots in the county have also been revived after voters corrected the problems. 

About 4,000 votes in Nevada have been flagged, while 8,000 ballots in North Carolina are at risk. According to The New York Times, the high number of absentee ballots was expected to cause an increase in rejected votes, but the early results of the election indicated a lower number of errors compared to past years. 

“You’re going to have 80 million absentee ballots cast, and hundreds of thousands may have problems. But 99% or more of them will count,” Nate Persily, a Stanford University professor of law, told The New York Times. 

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