Publications

    Ensuring All Votes Count: Reducing Rejected Ballots
    Altamirano, Jose, and Tova Wang. 2022. “Ensuring All Votes Count: Reducing Rejected Ballots”. Abstract

    Executive Summary

    This brief studies trends in mail ballot rejection rates in 2020 compared to previous years and how different factors, including sets of policies and policy changes, the political environment, and voter outreach, may have contributed to these changes in an extraordinary election year. Our main findings include:

    • Mail ballot rejection rates decreased in most states in 2020 compared to 2018, and a number of states saw a consistent drop from 2016 to 2018 to 2020.
    • Certain states that adapted their voting laws to make mail voting more accessible in 2020, particularly in the South, saw especially pronounced changes in rejection rates.
    • In North Carolina, rejection rates vary from county to county. Previous studies of other states’ rejection rates found similar trends.
    • States that implemented mail ballot policies, including ballot curing, increased ease of access when returning mail ballots at boards of elections, early voting sites, drop boxes, and ballot tracking, saw lower rejection rates than those that didn’t, though we caution against assuming a causal relationship.
    • Previous academic and advocacy research suggests that voters of color, young voters, and first-time voters are disproportionately more likely to have their mail ballots rejected.

    We highlight these trends and suggest further areas of study that researchers, advocates, organizers, and policymakers can explore to better understand how voters casting their ballots by mail can ensure their votes are counted.

    Download the PDF

     

    Rapoport, Miles. 2021. “Testimony in Support of H 788, An Act Making Voting Obligatory and Increasing Turnout in Elections.” Joint Committee on Election Laws, General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Read the Full Testimony Abstract

    Testimony in Support of H 788, An Act Making Voting Obligatory and Increasing Turnout in Elections given to the Joint Committee on Election Laws by Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center of the Harvard Kennedy School, October 20, 2021.

    View a Recording of the Testimony 

    The testimony begins at the 17:43 minute mark. 

    Understanding the Role of Local Election Officials: How Local Autonomy Shapes U.S. Election Administration

    Hannah Furstenberg-Beckman, Greg Degen, and Tova Wang; September 2021 

    This policy brief will examine the independence and discretionary powers of local election officials and offer a framework to better understand local autonomy in our electoral system. It will also describe the larger system within which the local election official operates and demonstrate how local power and voter-focused decision-making varies across the country. The brief will use illustrative examples of the exercise of autonomy by local election officials from past elections as well as examples of shifts in local discretionary powers from the recent wave of state legislative efforts that seek to restrict autonomy.

    It will also address the implications of local autonomy for those with an interest in increasing voter access and promoting voter participation. This brief can be a resource for those seeking a better understanding of the possible levers of change in their own state or locality’s electoral system.