Georgia and Pennsylvania, two of the most closely contested states in last year’s presidential election, both logged a high number of unaccounted-for mail-in ballots, according to new reports from an election watchdog group. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation determined this week that Pennsylvania had 15,175 undeliverable mail-in ballots and 425,606 “unknown” or unaccounted-for ballots. Another 34,171 mail-in ballots were rejected by election officials, it said. 

Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 81,660 votes to win Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. 

The legal group found that Georgia had 27,287 undeliverable ballots and another 217,677 ballots met an “unknown” fate. Election officials rejected another 4,804 ballots. 

Biden beat Trump by 11,779 votes to win Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.  

It could be a matter of a “coin flip” whether the unknown ballots would have benefited Biden or Trump, said J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. 

The point is that a mass mail-in voting system disenfranchises voters, Adams said. 

“The bottom line is that the numbers show the system everyone rushed to in 2020 had defects and is worse than the system used in 2018, 2016, and 2012,” Adams, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Voting Section, told The Daily Signal. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, touted his state’s efforts to ensure clean elections in a statement sent Thursday to The Daily Signal:

Since day one, I have fought hard to clean up the voter rolls, including getting legislation passed to join ERIC [the Electronic Registration Information Center], removing 100,000 obsolete voter records earlier this year, and continuing to do all list maintenance allowed by law. Federal red tape and frivolous lawsuits have made that more difficult, but we remain committed to ensuring clean voter rolls for Georgia voters.

The Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, is a multi-state data sharing organization aimed at assisting states to improve the accuracy of voter registration rolls.

In Pennsylvania, Veronica Degraffenreid has been acting secretary of the commonwealth since February, overseeing elections in the equivalent of the job of secretary of state in 46 other states. Her office did not have an on-the-record response to The Daily Signal’s request for comment. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s data is based on information from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that asks local election officials how many ballots were not returned as voted, were undeliverable, or were otherwise “unable to be tracked.”

“Undeliverable” means a registered voter applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot, but the ballot never made it into the hands of that intended voter. 

With “unknown” or “unaccounted-for” ballots, election officials don’t know what happened to the ballots. Such ballots could have been delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, but the voters decided not to vote. The ballots also may never have reached the intended voter or may have been filled out by voters but were lost in the mail, among other scenarios. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s document notes that the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general reported that only 13% of mail-in ballots in the 2018 general election used the official tracking system, so a number of things could have happened to a ballot placed in the “unknown” column.

Adams said he thinks states and local elections officials get more money in their budgets to promote mail-in voting.  

“States are getting a lot of money in their budgets to hire new people and for machines,” Adams said. “Anything that undermines the vote-by-mail gravy train—like data—is not going to be taken seriously by election offices.”

A Washington Post analysis in February found that flipping about 43,000 votes across Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin could have changed the Electoral College outcome that gave Biden the presidency over Trump. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation reported last month that a total of 14.7 million mail-in ballots were unaccounted for nationally, while 1.1 million mail-in ballots were undeliverable. Election officials rejected another 560,814. 

The foundation also noted that Wisconsin had 6,458 undeliverable ballots; 76,308 met an “unknown” fate; and officials rejected another 2,981 mail-in ballots. 

Biden claimed Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes with a 20,682-vote  margin over Trump.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, objected to the legal foundation’s findings. In a statement to The Daily Signal, Magney argued that the foundation “cherry picked” from raw Election Assistance Commission data.

This report was updated within three hours of publication to include a comment from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

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