California may have disenfranchised millions of voters in the 2022 primary and general elections, according to a new report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity watchdog group.
The 2022 midterms marked the first election held since the California Legislature passed and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 37, which required automatically mailing ballots to all active registered voters in the nation’s most populous state.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said after signing the bill in September 2021.
That clearly hasn’t been the result of the law, said J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, on Wednesday.
“Mail ballots disenfranchise. There are many reasons mail ballots fail ultimately to count,” Adams said in a press statement. “No one casting a ballot at home can correct an error before it’s too late. California’s vote-by-mail demonstration should serve as a warning to state legislators elsewhere.”
Election officials failed to account for the 10 million ballots for multiple reasons, according to the legal foundation’s report.
“After accounting for polling place votes and rejected ballots in November 2022, there were more than 10 million ballots left outstanding, meaning election officials do not know what happened to them,” the report says. “It is fair to assume that the bulk of these were ignored or ultimately thrown out by the intended recipients. But, under mass mail elections, we can only assume what happened.”
The report says election officials rejected the 226,250 ballots for nine reasons. A whopping 47.7% of ballots arrived too late to count. California law requires mail ballots to be postmarked no later than Election Day and to arrive for counting no later than seven days after Election Day.
The U.S. Postal Service says it averages a 94% success rate in delivering political mail in a timely fashion, according to the report. That leaves room for a significant number of individual ballots. Nationally, however, the USPS says it delivered at a 99% rate for election mail in 2022.
“In the November contests, more than 57,000 ballots arrived after November 15, setting them up for rejection,” the report says. “The official datasets do not differentiate between ballots postmarked too late or delivered too late.”
A spokesperson for California Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office responded to The Daily Signal after the story was initially published without comment, but provided links from the office that confirmed the rejected 226,250 ballots. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there were 105,818 rejected or challenged ballots in the primary election and 120,432 rejected or challenged ballots in the general election.
The second biggest reason for rejected ballots was a signature mismatch, accounting for 39.8% of ballots. Another 9.8% of ballots had no signature, according to the report.
Officials rejected fewer than 1% of ballots—or 813 ballots statewide—because the voter voted both by mail and in person. Also, officials rejected fewer than 1% of the ballots for other reasons, such as including the wrong address on the envelope, multiple ballots in a single envelope, or a missing ballot from the envelope.
This story was updated to include information provided by the California Secretary of State’s office.
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