Were Some Voters’ Absentee Ballots Returned as ‘Undeliverable’?

Reports out of Ohio and Georgia claimed that ballots mailed in government-provided envelopes were rejected by the USPS.

Claim

A voter in Chatham County, Georgia, had a mail-in ballot returned and listed as "undeliverable" even though it was addressed to a county-approved P.O. box.

Rating

Origin

Amid the dispute over reputed voter suppression efforts in the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia, officials in one county said they would investigate an apparent issue that was first highlighted on social media.

On 7 November 2018, a Facebook user shared a photograph of what they said was their mail-in ballot, mailed in the county-issued, pre-addressed envelope to the standard P.O. box address for ballots in Chatham County:

My absentee ballot just showed up in my mailbox today. It says “return to sender … not deliverable as addressed … unable to forward.” How is the pre-addressed PO Box not a deliverable address?

As the post was disseminated online, other users claimed that no mail-in ballots had been recorded in Chatham County at all, which was not true. County election supervisor Russell Bridges confirmed to us via email that officials received around 6,000 mail-in ballots, and the county election board’s website shows that mail-in ballots were indeed cast and counted throughout the area.

However, Bridges said, his office was contacted regarding the photograph of the “undeliverable” ballot, and in one instance they received a postcard bearing the social media image of a returned envelope: ” Since a significant number of ballots were received successfully by the registrar [of voters] and the envelopes they used are pre-prepared, it is a mystery why any were returned undeliverable. I will be contacting the postmaster at the beginning of next week to have them look into this.”

At least one voter in Ohio reported that her own absentee ballot was also returned with a notation reading “Insufficient address,” despite her use of the envelope provided to her by the Medina County elections board.

Carol A. Lawler, head of the local board of elections in that part of Ohio, said: “After talking with the voter, we contacted the Post Office. We were told to ask the voter to take her ballot to the closest post office, ask them for a penalty envelope and place her ballot into it for mailing. The Post Office will make sure her ballot is sent to the Medina County Board of Elections and will investigate the matter.”

Overall in Georgia, around 230,000 ballots were reportedly mailed in during the 2018 electoral season, with more than 5,000 being rejected for various reasons. However, judges ruled in two separate cases that ballots with incorrect or missing birth dates, as well as those with “mismatched” signatures, were to be counted.

Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp was widely criticized during the election for refusing to step down from his position as Georgia secretary of state (which oversees election issues) until after he declared himself the victor over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Kemp was also had been accused of engaging in voter suppression ever since he took office as secretary of state in 2012, particularly after reports that his office had canceled around 670,000 voter registrations in 2017, and more than 1.4 million voter registrations overall during his tenure.

On 16 November 2018, Abrams announced that she was acknowledging Kemp would be ruled the winner in the gubernatorial race but added that she would file a lawsuit against Kemp in order to protect future elections from what she called his “gross mismanagement.”

“This is not a speech of concession,” Abrams said. “Because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.”

Sources
  • Reid, Melissa.   “Absentee Ballot Returned to Sender in Medina County.”
        WJW-TV.   2 November 2018.

  • Ingraham, Christopher.   “Signature Mismatches, Missing Birthdays and Errant Spouses: Why Thousands of Absentee Ballots Were Tossed out in Georgia.”
        The Washington Post.   16 November 2018.

  • Mitchell, Tia.   “Stacey Abrams Bows Out of Gubernatorial Race with Fiery Speech.”
        Atlanta Journal-Constitution.   16 November 2018.

  • Associated Press.   “Voting Rights Become a Flashpoint in Georgia Governor’s Race.”
        9 October 2018.

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